Views from the Ontario Vines
with Fred Couch
Sip and Sizzle
This year’s Sip and Sizzle was held at 25 wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For a one-price touring pass you could visit all the wineries over four weekends in May (including Fridays) for a food and wine pairing. Designated drivers could participate in the food offering with a non-alcoholic beverage.
Top Ten Favourites (in no particular order):
Pondview Estate Winery – 2016 Cabernet Merlot Reserve (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) paired with a grilled beef patty, crispy onions, smoked 5 Brothers cheese, aioli on a brioche bun. This was one of the largest offerings and this delicious burger had lots of sizzle. The wine was fruit forward with a hint of smokiness.
The Hare Wine Co. – 2016 Frontier Collection Riesling with stone oven pizza topped with smoked duck, caramelized onions and apple. Although the new patio had not officially opened, we were able to pick up our wine and pizza outside on the patio. However, it was very cool outside so we decided to enjoy this combination inside the winery. The Riesling went really well with the smokiness of the duck. We look forward to returning to the Hare Wine Co. when the patio is open and they have their own pizza ovens.
Queenston Mile Vineyard: 2017 Mile White (grape varietals not mentioned) paired with a grilled pineapple tropical shrimp poke bowl. I don’t eat seafood so I was offered the “vegetarian” option which was the same dish (rice and a pineapple sauce) without the shrimp. The pineapple mixture was a bit sweet to go with the wine but it was tasty in any case. I am curious as to why a winery would not list the grape varietals in the wine on their website.
Trius Winery and Restaurant: 2017 Trius Merlot with a grilled beef kofta with pickled onions, mint and honey yogurt. I did not realize that many European and Asian countries had their own unique recipe of “kofta”. This version was ground beef, onion and spices in the shape of a sausage and served on a soft bun. The Merlot was a good complement to the spiciness of the dish.
Small Talk Vineyards: 2016 “RSVP” Pinot Gris paired with sweet and savoury herbed shortbread with blackberry pink peppercorn preserves. I included this pairing because it was the only “sweet” offering on this year’s event although the sweetness was combined with savoury herbs. The sizzle came from the peppercorn in the topping. The Pinot Gris was a good choice to go with the shortbread. For those not familiar with Small Talk wines, they have some unique labels – some even insulting. The idea is to promote “small talk” with your guests when you bring them a bottle of wine. The winery now has three reserves wines which are more suited for those of us who enjoy a “serious” wine rather than a fun one.
Château des Charmes: 2017 Sauvignon Blanc or 2016 Rosé, Cuvée d'Andrée (100% Pinot Noir) with a citrus cured and grilled slice of rainbow trout with a fennel and herb slaw. It’s always appreciated when a winery offers more than one choice of wine to go with the food dish. We each chose a different wine. Since, as I mentioned, I don’t eat seafood I was informed that both wines went well with the fish. I preferred the Rosé, for drinking on its own. The fennel and herb slaw was delicious even without the trout.
Marynissen Estates Winery: 2016 Platinum Series Sauvignon Blanc paired with grilled pineapple salsa and pulled chicken on a flour tortilla. Marynissen was one of the few wineries offering a vegetarian and vegan option. I chose the tortilla without the pulled chicken and it was perfect with the wine although a bit messy to eat. They provided lots of napkins! Afterwards, they offered a complimentary tasting of any of their other wines. We had a number of other wineries to visit that day so we chose to only try one other wine – the newly released 2017 “Bottoms up Red”.
Stratus Vineyards: 2017 Wildass White (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier) matched with grilled fennel and cucumber salad topped with Sichuan chili oil and smoked peanuts. The wine was able to cool down the heat of the chili oil so was a good choice. This was one of a couple of dishes that was both vegan and gluten free. The 2017 Wildass White was only available for purchase during the Sip & Sizzle event.
Niagara College Teaching Winery: 2017 Balance Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc with grilled lamb, kale and sheep’s milk feta spanakopita. The food was prepared by Benchmark Restaurant at Niagara College. This was an interesting take on the traditional spanakopita which is usually made with spinach. The wine “balanced” the spiciness of the dish so the name suited. There are only a few vineyards producing Semillon in Niagara. Some vineyards were devastated by the polar vortex of 2014. Fortunately the College was able to source this grape from a vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation.
Hinterbrook Winery: 2018 Venus Rosé paired with a chicken cutlet with a garden fresh salad and a light, savoury dressing. I always wonder why Hinterbrook has such plain wine labels. This is clarified on their website – “Our NOMAD label is about more than just exquisite wine, it is about the journey…the experience. Visit us to create your own story, design your own label and share your adventure with the world!”
All in all, this was a very good event with a lot of interesting pairings and lots of “sizzle”. We were pleased with the number of wineries offering a vegetarian or vegan option this year. It was also appreciated that these were highlighted on the list of pairings as well as an indication of where the wines could be purchased.
For information about next year's Sip & Sizzle and other events put on by the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, check out the website at http://wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/.
Photos by © F.G. Couch
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Robert A Bell