Views from the Ontario Vines

with Fred Couch

“Days of Wine & Chocolate - 2019”

This year’s Days of Wine and Chocolate saw the return of Southbrook Vineyards after a few years of not participating. Also taking part in the event was newly-opened Queenston Mile Vineyard. As a result 26 wineries participated this year. The best thing about the Days of Wine and Chocolate is that ticket holders can visit all wineries over four weekends in February (including Fridays) for one low price. Each winery presented a wine and chocolate pairing. Six wineries had a savoury offering and one had a combination plate of savoury and sweet. The remainder served a sweet chocolate-infused dish.

Some of our favourite savoury dishes:

The Hare Wine Co. – The 2017 Crown Land Red (a Cabernet Franc aged in oak for nine months) was paired with slow roasted coffee and herb crusted beef loin with Cabernet chocolate jus. It was a delicious combination.

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery – The 2016 Estate Cabernet Franc was served with a large pretzel bathed in dark chocolate and encrusted with bacon and sea salt from “Bacon Crazy” (

Stratus Vineyards The 2016 Late Harvest Red was served with Mountain Oak Gouda aged for three years served on a crostini and topped with clover honey and shavings of chocolate from Soma Chocolate. The late harvest is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Late harvest wine is a great alternate to Icewine. It is not as sweet and usually its at a better price point. It went perfectly with the different tastes of the dish.

Strewn Winery – This was an interesting combination of savoury and sweet. To go with the 2017 Muscat, we were served three small bites. The first sample was roast rhubarb on a rice cracker. The tartness of the rhubarb was offset by the fruitiness of the wine. However, the rice cracker was salted and overpowered the rhubarb. The hickory smoked ham with spicy mustard was a much better match with the flavours of the Muscat. You’re probably wondering “where’s the wine and chocolate”? This came with the last tasting. It was a Lindt white chocolate truffle and was our favourite of the trio of samplers. We always like visiting Strewn on these events because they put a lot of thought into their presentation. Unfortunately, the 2017 Muscat is no longer available. However, the 2018 vintage will be available this summer. It’s described as “crisp with typical fruity-floral qualities”.

Some of our favourite sweet dishes:

When I think of chocolate and wine I immediately think of sweet chocolate. Of the 26 wineries participating, 20 served a sweet chocolate to go with the wine. There were many that we enjoyed but some of our favourites are shown below.

Chateau des Charmes – A delicious white chocolate crêpe filled with honey, ricotta and apricot was accompanied by the 2017 Vidal Icewine. A lot of the wineries have a simple sweet offering such as a cookie or brownie but Chateau des Charmes had a unique tasting with this tasty crêpe. Even though the Icewine was sweet, there was a nice amount of acidity to cut the sweetness and balance out the wine. This was by far one of the best pairings of this year’s event.

Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery – Does anyone remember the Hostess Cupcake commercial from years ago when the cupcakes were advertised as having a “surprise inside” referring to the cream filling? Well the cupcake served at Wayne Gretzky reminded me of those days. The “surprise” for me was the burst of caramel that came from the middle of the cupcake. The muffin was topped with a white chocolate icing. Usually the wine should be sweeter than the dessert so I didn’t think this would be a good match. However, for some reason they paired well together maybe because of the fruitiness of the wine. This muffin sure beats anything you can get from Tim Horton’s!

Niagara College Teaching Winery & Brewery – Three wineries served different types of brownie and they were all very good. However, Niagara College had a bit of a surprise for visitors participating in the event. To go with a milk chocolate espresso brownie they served a beer and a wine. The beer, made by Niagara College students, was a small batch honey porter. Who would have thought that a beer would go with chocolate but it went really well. The beer had hints of chocolate, honey and dark fruit. The wine poured was the 2017 Balance Cabernet Franc. It also went okay with the brownie but I preferred the beer, surprisingly enough.

The Lakeview Wine Co. – This was a most interesting tasting. It was their take on an ice-cream soda. 2016 Fresh Perspectives Satin Red and Fresh Ideas Sparkling Riesling were topped with dark chocolate-cherry ice-cream with whipped cream and a chocolate wafer. It was very tasty but I found that the red wine was a bit bitter with the very sweet ice-cream. I have to give the winery credit for this very innovative idea.

As with any event of this type, there are always a few disappointments. I really don’t like reviewing the negatives. However, one winery ran out of food mid-afternoon on a Sunday. The winery was not that busy so I’m not sure what happened. It’s sometimes hard to predict how many people will show up and I do applaud the winery for providing an alternative but I was looking forward to the pairing advertised. Another winery served a red wine that was obviously oxidized. When I asked the person who was pouring the wine if she had tried it she told me that she hadn’t because she doesn’t like red wine. When she did try it she said, “Oh, that’s bad”. The second bottle she opened had secondary fermentation causing it to be fizzy. Needless to say we didn’t drink the wine but enjoyed the chocolate brownie mousse they served.

 In spite of these two situations, this was another great event put on by the wineries. We look forward to next year’s Days of Wine and Chocolate. What’s not to love?

For more information about the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and upcoming events, visit the website at

Photos by © F.G. Couch

Views from the Ontario Vines