By Mike Lowe
For some, the closing of the annual Niagara Wine Festival signals the start of a slow decline, perhaps even an abrupt end, to the glorious pastime of touring Niagara’s wine route and attending food and wine events.
But autumn in Niagara can be just as busy for those wanting to enjoy the sights and tastes of this beautiful region.
Over the past two weeks I’ve cycled through Niagara-on-the-Lake, chowed down on some pretty darn good food truck eats, and tasted my way through a healthy percentage of one winery’s product portfolio. In the end, these events solidified my notion that we live in one of the greatest areas in Canada.
When I’m not indulging in food and wine, cycling around the region is always a pleasurable pastime. So a chance to combine my three passions, and ride alongside legendary cyclist Mario Cipollini, above in black, was a rare opportunity that I could not pass up.
Cipollini, one of cycling’s most colourful personalities, was in town to promote his line of high-end, Italian made bicycles. Hosted at beautiful Jackson-Triggs winery (very top photo), the event lured about 50 cyclists from across Southern Ontario to ride the rain-dampened roads of Niagara.
A nutritious post-ride meal of barley and edamame salad, herb-roasted chicken and apple-rhubarb crumble tart (above) was well received by the riders, while Jackson-Triggs wine helped to ease the chill of the late morning tour.
More recently, a fundraiser for the CYO Heat, a special needs hockey team, was held at the CAW hall in St. Catharines. The event featured food trucks from as far away as Toronto. There was plenty of good grub to choose from.
Crispy wood-oven baked pizza from the Canuck Pizza Truck, above, tender smoked beef brisket and corn chowder with bacon (below) from the Southern Smoke Truck, lobster rolls by the Tide and Vine Oyster Company, and Mahi-Mahi tacos (below) from the Gourmet Gringos were just a few of the delectable offerings available.
I was recently invited to taste through a collection of a dozen or so wines at Konzelmann Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Wines tasted ranged from 2010 reserve and late harvest whites, varietal reds, and some sneak previews from tank and barrel.
In general, the currently released wines could be classified as very good to excellent and all represented very good value. One point of note is the attractive new label design which focuses the eye on the Konzelmann name.
Here are a few of the highlights. Ratings are out of five stars, prices do not include bottle deposit.
Pinot Gris Reserve 2010 ($17, winery only, 4 stars)
Distinct copper/pink in color, the wine shows intense lemon-lime and spice on the nose and a palate of pear/apple and tangerine. Crisp acidity balances the slightly sweet fruit while lingering spice notes grace the long finish.
Gewurztraminer Late Harvest 2010 ($17, winery only, 4 stars)
A nose of rose petal and lychee lead to a palate laced with ripe mango, lychee and spiced pear. The off-dry sweetness is offset by lively acidity leading to a clean, medium-length finish.
Shiraz 2011 ($12.75, winery, LCBO, 3½ stars)
Lots of dark cherry/plum with hints of black pepper show on both the nose and palate. Integrated oak tannins, medium bodied and dry with persistent fruit throughout.