Views from the Ontario Vines

with Fred Couch

Taste The Season

This year, 26 Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries participated in Taste the Season. At each winery, participants received holiday-inspired wine and food pairings for a one price pass. The pass could be used anytime over four weekends in November including Fridays. This made it easy to spread the tastings over a few weekends rather than trying to visit all wineries in one weekend.

Some of this year’s highlights:

taste the seasons

Riverview Cellars – 2016 Pinot Noir paired with fried pork dumplings topped with either wasabi mayo or soya sauce. I would have expected a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer to be paired with the spiciness of the dumplings but the Pinot Noir was a good choice with a light, well-balanced structure and soft tannins.

Strewen winery

Strewn Winery – This was one of the best presentations. They were demonstrating how Riesling is wonderful with food of all kinds – from savoury to sweet. The 2017 is a crisp, refreshing and fruity semi-dry Riesling with a well-balanced acidity. The first tasting was an edamame spread on a beet cracker. The wine enhanced the creaminess of the spread but I found it just a bit bitter so was not my favourite match. However, the wine went very well with the vegetable spring roll with plum sauce. The last tasting was really original - an orange KitKat bar to go with the wine. The wine made the chocolate more flavourful and the bar made the wine smoother. It’s always a nice touch when a winery puts a lot of thought into their wine and food presentation.

Small Talk Vineyards – We find that sometimes Small Talk food and wine pairings are hit and miss. This year’s matching was very good. The presentation of a local charcuterie sampler was one of the best. The cheese, meat and other accompaniments went very well with the 2015 “Big Ideas” Cabernet Franc. For those not familiar with Small Talk, the labels try to encourage conversation at a party, a gathering with friends or other social encounters. In March 2017 the winery released a reserve label - Big Ideas.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery – This was the largest food portion served for this event. Canadian peameal bacon on a bun with grainy mustard was served with the 2017 Baco Noir. This was lunch for us and very tasty with this fruity, food friendly wine.

Reif Estate Winery – This was the most unusual pairing of this year’s Taste the Season but very tasty. The 2017 Shiraz was offered with black pepper, truffle and parmesan popcorn. The wine was fermented in stainless steel only with no barrel contact. It’s medium-bodied with plum and raspberry aromas. It went very well with the spicy popcorn. This combination would go very well with the many holiday movies now showing of TV networks.


Marynissen Estates Winery – Three wineries served a soup this year. Inniskillin Wines paired the 2017 Vidal Icewine with a Vidal onion soup with a Niagara Gold crouton. Trius Winery matched the 2016 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay with a creamed mushroom soup with sour cream and chives. Finally, Marynissen (photo above) paired the 2017 Heritage White (a blend of Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Muscat) with delicious carrot ginger bisque.

Pondview Estate Winery – With the holidays coming up, we start thinking about entertaining and inviting friends and relatives over for various meals. For something a bit different, Pondview served what they called the “All Day Sparkling Brunch”. The food featured chicken & waffles drizzled with a spiced strawberry Icewine glaze. The accompanying wine was the 2017 Lot 74 Sparkling Brut – perfect for any meal but it went great with this brunch dish.

Pillitteri Estates Winery – Three wineries served a sweet dish this year. By far, our favourite was Pillitteri’s caramel apple crumble parfait. This was served with the 2013 Select Late Harvest Riesling. The wine was sweet enough to hold up to the sweetness of the parfait. A drier wine would not have been a good choice. This was the problem with the wine served by Lailey Winery. For some reason, they chose to match a very sweet butter tart (which was delicious) with a very dry 2013 Chardonnay. The wine might have been okay on its own but just didn’t go well with the tart.

Rancourt Winery also chose a 2013 Chardonnay to go with tiramisu which was more of a cake than traditional tiramisu. It wasn’t as sweet as the butter tart at Lailey so the wine went a bit better with the dish. I still think the general rule applies: the wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

I usually don’t like to report on the negatives. However, this year there were a couple of food dishes that were not great. One winery served chicken wings that were under cooked. Another winery advertised Hungarian goulash with “tender beef and autumn vegetables”. This should have been called a goulash soup. It was mostly broth with a few vegetables. We didn’t get any meat at all in our serving.

Except for these two exceptions, the wineries did a great job with the wine and food presentations this year. 

For information about next year's Taste the Season and other events put on by the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, check out the website at

For more photos with wine and food pairings go to:


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