Views from the Ontario Vines

 

Days of Wine & Chocolate

by Fred Couch


When the Days of Wine and Chocolate started a few years ago, all the participating wineries served a variation of a piece of chocolate to match with the wine.  It got a bit boring and repetitive.  In the last couple of years the wineries mixed it up and provided a nice variety of sweet and savoury treats.  This year was no exception.  Of the 23 wineries, 9 served a savoury dish and 14 served a sweet pairing.  For a one price pass you can visit all 23 wineries over four weekends (including Fridays) in February.  This gives a great opportunity to spread the wineries over a number of days to better enjoy the experience.

Some of our favourite savoury dishes:

Inniskillin Wines – This serving of a Montreal smoked meat sandwich with cocoa aioli was the largest food sample of any of the wineries. It could have been lunch!  The delicious sandwich went perfectly with the 2013 Reserve Merlot.  The only confusing thing was that the “aioli” did not contain any garlic but it still tasted amazingly good


Strewn Winery – This was a trio of two savoury and one sweet treat.  The first was pulled pork with cocoa on a tortilla chip; the second was roast rhubarb with white chocolate shavings; the sweet was a Thai peanut butter ball in dark chocolate.  The trio was matched with a 2011 Cabernet Franc Icewine.  We agreed that the pulled pork was the favourite pairing.  The rhubarb was a little too sharp and the peanut butter was much too sweet to go with the Icewine.  As always Strewn does a great job with the food and always has a nice presentation.

Stratus Vineyards – I always find it amusing that an upscale winery such as Stratus has a wine called “Wildass” but I guess that’s just me.  However, this 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend was delicious and a perfect match for the Wildass chocolate chili with SOMA Jamaican cocoa nibs.  The chili was prepared by Backhouse – a local Niagara-on-the-Lake restaurant.

Pondview Estate Winery – I loved how Pondview described their food dish: Succulent ribs smothered in a delicious chocolate “concoction”.  Whatever the concoction was, it was really good.  The ribs were tender and meaty.  The 2013 award winning “Bella Terra” Cabernet Sauvignon complemented the food.  

Rancourt Winery – Although I don’t eat seafood, I had to post this photo because it was my wife’s favourite savoury dish of all.  She was really happy because she got to have my portion as well!  The pairing was the 2014 Chardonnay Reserve with lobster bisque topped with white chocolate shavings prepared by Harvest Barn.  I can’t comment on the bisque but the not too oaky Chardonnay was very good.

Our least favourite pairing was at Reif Estate Winery.  They served pork belly “Snickers”.  I’ll leave it to your imagination what this tasted like.  I ate the Snickers part but couldn’t eat the pork belly.  The 2014 Pinot Noir would have been better with a different dish.

Some of our favourite sweet dishes:

Niagara College Teaching Winery – This was my favourite sweet pairing.  A milk chocolate and coffee brownie bar topped with dark chocolate.  It was a chocoholic’s delight.  Surprisingly, the 2011 Dean’s List Meritage (a blend 50% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon) went very well with the brownie. 

Pillitteri Estates Winery – A runner up to the tasting at Niagara College was the dark chocolate cup with milk chocolate mousse topped with Cabernet Merlot raspberry compote, a fresh raspberry and a white chocolate swirl.  The various flavours just burst in the mouth and the 2013 Cabernet Merlot was the perfect wine to go with the sweetness of the food.

The Lakeview Wine Co. (formerly Diamond Estates) – Unfortunately, the 2014 Sparkling Rosé had lost its sparkle when it was served to us but it was still fruity and refreshing.  It was served with fresh fruit skewers and dark chocolate fondue. As a side note – the winery is in the process of constructing a new 3,000 square foot facility which will accommodate their retail store and two tasting bars. 

Hinterbrook Estate Winery This was an interesting presentation at Hinterbrook – a box of chocolate assortments.  The 2013 “Nomad” Cabernet Sauvignon was served with the chocolates.  It was a nice selection of chocolates but I have to confess, I took mine home to enjoy later.  You may wonder why the wine label is so blank.  Their theory is that travellers, adventurers, discoverers, artists and customers can tell their stories by drawing and painting on each label of “Nomad” wine.  This is an interesting concept.  

Lailey Vineyards – I did not post this photo because it was one of our favourite pairings but because it was the smallest food sample.  It looks large in the picture but the lemon tart with a white chocolate decoration was the size of a quarter.  It was, however, very tasty.  It went well with the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Fumé.  The lemon in the tart did not overwhelm the wine and it was a good match.

Overall this was another great event put on by the wineries.  I 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 http://wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/.

Photos by © F.G. Couch

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