Even the most casual of wine-thusiasts can appreciate the knowledge that a wine tour affords. Whether you stop at just one vineyard, or six, you definitely come away with a greater appreciation for what you’re drinking. And also, because, you know: free wine.
On a recent trip to Niagara Falls I was able to see four boutique wineries that produce a wide range of reds, whites, sparklings, and icewines. For me, the greatest pleasure was in learning about icewine. (Yes, to be considered an official icewine, it must be spelled as one word. My space bar still works!)
Icewines are harvested late in the season, usually January or February. This is still distinct from a “late harvest” wine because icewine can only be named as such if the grapes were on the vine for three consecutive nights of -8° C. Once this has happened, all of the harvesting and processing is done in the middle of the night so that the grapes don’t warm up at all. The idea is that the freezing temperatures concentrate the juice inside the grape, making a much sweeter nectar. For each ice grape, you only get about one drop of liquid. In other words, icewine production sacrifices dozens of bottles of regular wine for one bottle of icewine.
The end result is worth it, though. Certainly, it’s very sweet. Too sweet for some. A regular chardonnay is about a 1 or a 2 on the sugar scale (which is based on a calculation of grams per ounce). Icewine is a 22. Maple syrup is a 60. So yes, it’s sweet, but probably not as sweet as what you have for breakfast on a Sunday morning.
Icewine is fragrant, fruity, and syrupy. I would compare it to apricot jam or fruit cocktail. I found it delicious but probably wouldn’t sit down with a bottle on a Thursday night to watch Jeopardy (although never say never). However, there are some amazing things you can do with icewine. Here’s a few to try if you’re new to this tasty little luxury wine:
2 ounces icewine
1 ounce vodka
Shake over ice and garnish with fruit slice of your choice (such as peach, lemon twist, or frozen grape).
Icewine “Royale” from pellerestates.ca
1 ounce Cab Franc icewine
3 oz. champagne
Layer the sparkling wine over the icewine and garnish with a floating raspberry
“Poire Regal” from theicehouse.ca
Arrange 12 pancetta slices in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined wire rack using a spatula. Cut pear crosswise into 12 thin rings. Arrange on a serving platter. Top evenly with crisp pancetta and crumbled goat cheese or Niagara Gold Cheese. Drizzle with Northern Ice Vidal or Jamie's Signature Series Big Red just before serving.
My personal favourite though? A little chilled fruit, a very cold glass of icewine, and some Canadian folk music. Pair with a hot, sunny day on the shores of Lake Erie and a loved one. Enjoy.