By Michael Lowe
Every November the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake host their Taste the Season event with wine and food pairings offered Friday through Sunday each weekend.
There’s still time to get your pass and hit the wine route. Here’s a quick look at what’s to taste this year.
My first stop is at one of the region’s newest wineries, The Hare Wine Company (very top above). Here they are dishing up roasted carrot and coriander soup paired with their 2016 Crown Land White. It’s a nice pairing – the sweet roasted carrot and lemony coriander of the soup are balanced by the lively acidity of the Riesling/Gewurztraminer blend.
Next up is Lakeview Wine Company where I run into chef James Cuttriss of The Heat is on Catering. He is serving butternut squash gnocchi with sauteed mushrooms this year (photo above). It is also paired with a riesling/gewurztraminer blend, which works nicely with the caramelized mushroom and sweet, buttery gnocchi.
Less than a kilometer up the road is the latest jewel in the Peller family crown, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery. The pairing here (photo above) melds the smoky character of their 2016 No. 99 Baco Noir with a ham hock and white bean cassoulet seasoned with smoked paprika – a warm, seasonal combination to be sure. While you’re there don’t forget to visit the distillery side and taste the fine spirits (not included with tour passes).
One of my favourite pairings of the afternoon is at Pondview Estate Winery. Soft potato gnocchi is topped with tender, slow cooked beef brisket, red wine gravy and cheese curds – in other words, a sort of dressed up version of poutine (photo above). Imagine this paired with Pondview’s 2013 Bella Terra Meritage and, well, you’ll understand why this pairing works so well.
At Reif Estate Winery I encounter what seems at first to be a strange thing to pair with wine – smooth, creamy textured gherkin soup made by Schnitzels and Strudels food truck. The soup has a distinct dill pickle-brininess, which is easily offset by the sweet notes and crisp acidity of the 2016 River Road Riesling Gewurztraminer.
My last stop is at the lavish Two Sisters Vineyards. This stately winery also houses one of the best restaurants in the area so hopes are set high. What I liked was the well thought out simplicity of their offering this year. Take a sweet date, stuff it with soft gorgonzola cheese, then wrap it up in peppery baby arugula and prosciutto (photo above) – what’s not to like there? Then, for a real treat, they paired it with one of my favourite wines, the 2013 Eleventh Post Meritage.
There you have it, a very short collection of the pairings available with this year’s Taste the Season touring pass. Even with just one weekend left, there’s plenty of time to treat yourself to the fantastic bites and sips to be enjoyed this year. Choose from either the regular touring pass at $45 or a designated driver pass for just $25 and hit the wine trail. Complete listings of participating wineries and pairings, as well as a link to purchase your passes, can be found here.