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Views from the Ontario Vines

with Fred Couch

“Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017”

Wrapped up in the Valley is a highlight of November wine events in Niagara. For one price, participants can visit 25 wineries or a food and wine pairing. A pass is good for one of three weekends or for all three Sundays during the event. Designated drivers can purchase a reduced price pass to participate in the food pairing without the wine. A “mocktail” or another non-alcoholic beverage was offered instead of wine. As in past years, a recipe card was given out at each winery with the recipe for the food sample offered. At the end of the event you have your very own cookbook.

Food and wine pairing highlights:


Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery: Chef Matt Hemmingsen prepared the recipe for Reserve Merlot and Juniper Scented Venison Stew. The wine that paired well with the stew was the 2015 Beal Vineyard Reserve Merlot. Even though the stew had very strong flavours, the Merlot was a good match. The Merlot grapes are from both the Beal and Lepp vineyard - aged in two and three year old French and American oak for 6 months. It was nice that the stew was served in a proper soup bowl not a Styrofoam cup as was the case at another winery.

Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery: What better way to describe the delicious (and famous) gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches at the winery than to quote Sue-Ann’s recently posted Facebook page: “this one is the best! The double cream brie - The pizza mozzarella from Quebec - Bernadette's zucchini in the middle. Delish Broo-ketta-Preserva on top. Soo rich. Soo good.” Paired with one of my favourite Sue-Ann’s wines – the Loved by Lu Riesling – a semi-dry wine – it was a perfect complement to the tasty grilled cheese sandwich.

Vineland Estates: The food at VEW was a Reuben brisket pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese, bourbon sauerkraut & Russian dressing. The 2015 “Castaway” Rosé was perfect with the sandwich. I wondered why they called this wine “Castaway”. Vineland Estates Winery has an optical sorter.  The optical sorting system is a machine that uses high-speed digital photography to single out ideal wine grapes based on size, colour and shape, while scrapping those that don’t measure up. In 2015 the sorter gave some cast offs which turned out to be good enough to use for this delicious wine. The blend for the 2015 vintage was 73.4% Cabernet Franc, 16.6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.

Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

Vieni Estates: This had to be one of the largest food samplings of the event. The pasta ragù alla Bolognese was served with a choice of two wines – The 2013 Red Trillium Ripasso or the 2012 Merlot Private Reserve. We couldn’t decide which wine to choose so we shared a sample of both. While the Merlot was very good, we both agreed that the Ripasso was the best choice with the pasta. The Red Trillium is made by “re-passing” a blend of 88% Pinot Noir & 12% Cabernet Sauvignon wine over the freshly dried grape skins of the Vieni Appassimento.

As an extra bonus, on the day we visited Vieni, it was the release of their Vino Novello. This “nouveau” or young wine is made from hand-picked Gamay Noir grapes. A short fermentation produces this young, light wine. There was also pizza and more pasta to go with the Novello but we were full from the pasta served with the event wine.


Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

13th Street Winery: This was probably the most unusual pairing we had on this event. The food was a wine & mustard chili with wild game and a berry mustard biscuit. The chili was made from ground elk. Fortunately, it didn’t have a gamey taste and it was very good with the 2016 Cabernet Merlot – a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot.

Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

Kacaba Vineyards: This is one of our favourite wineries in the Twenty Valley to visit. Instead of just standing behind the tasting bar, the staff will take you (or a small group) into the tank and barrel room and give guests personal attention. Before we tried the pairing, we had the opportunity to try some tank samples of their Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Rosé. This was a good indication of what the finished wines would be like and it adds to the winery experience. We then tried the food and wine pairing. Chef Stephen Del Col of Zooma Caters and his assistant were busy preparing the food while we sipped on the matching wine – the 2016 Cabernet Franc. The food was Tandoori chicken on a bed of kale salad topped with raspberry chutney. I don’t eat chicken so had the vegetarian option. My wife said the dish was delicious as was the wine.

Sweet Pairings:

A few of the wineries decided to do a sweet dish with the wine this year. These included Calamus Estate Winery, Harbour Estates Winery and De Sousa Wines. While we didn’t get a chance to try it, we heard that the winemaker’s red wine hot chocolate at Creekside Estate Winery was “interesting”.  

Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

Battle of the brownies? Well not really. The brownies served at Harbour Estates and Calamus were quite different and both delicious. Harbour’s version was a fudgy dark chocolate brownie with a moist centre – almost like a ganache. Calamus’ version was more of a traditional drier style but with a twist. It was a bacon chili triple chocolate brownie! Both wineries decided to pair the brownie with a red wine and I personally think this is the best wine to match with dark chocolate. Harbour Estates wine was the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon and Calamus opted for the 2014 Cabernet Merlot – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot aged in French Oak.

Wrapped up in the Valley - 2017

The other “dessert” was at De Sousa Wines. The food was an Icewine soaked apricot and roasted peach square made by De La Terre Bakery of Jordan. It was paired with a tasty 2014 Vidal Icewine. As if that wasn’t enough Icewine, they offered my wife a drizzle of Icewine over the square! We should have saved this pairing until the end of our tour!

This year’s version of Wrapped up in the Valley was one of the best yet and we look forward to future events in the Twenty Valley. For more information on the wineries and other events in the Valley go to: www.20valley.ca

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- photos by Fred Couch additional photos


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