Taste of the Season is the November event to enjoy wine and food pairings from the bounty of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries.
Participating wineries offer seasonally-inspired wine and food pairings to tempt your taste buds and excite your palate. More than 20 wineries are participating in the annual event that takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the month.
Many wineries are offering an array of featured wines exclusive to the event. One such wine from Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery is not sold online or at the LCBO. To get a taste of this particular 2018 Sand & Gravel Chardonnay, you need to participate in the Taste of the Season pairing of this wine with Chef Matt Payne’s five-spice roasted pork shoulder with a sweet and sour squash salad. The ingredients for the salad come from their organic vegetable garden. More than 6.000 pounds of organic vegetables are harvested each year for use in their farm-to-table restaurant.
Adele Shenna, retail manager and certified sommelier, is responsible for pairing this lovely wine with the food. The tasting notes of pear and apple in the Chardonnay complement the warm spice of the pork. Shenna explained that she decided which wine to use based on the ingredients in the chef’s recipe. She hoped those with Taste of the Season tickets take the time to stop and savour the pairing of food with the wine, for a taste experience which is different from the regular wine tastings offered. For some people, mainly groups, it has become a different mindset to make it a “mission to hit as many wineries as possible in a day,” she said. She would like to see people slow down and take the time to experience the wine, the food and the atmosphere of the winery that they are visiting. She suggested participants spread out their visits over more days and limit them to three or four a day to get the most from the event.
While Adam Hughes, gallerist at Queenston Mile Vineyard, agrees with Shenna’s observation, he said he has observed the winery is either the first or the last stop on many of the participants’ list. He told the story of how he helped a group of Taste of the Season participants by staying after closing long enough for them to complete their final tasting of the 25 participating wineries. He believes the event is a positive campaign to promote the area wineries, expose people to them and “hope that they will enjoy themselves and come back.”
Hughes’ emphasis on promotion may also stem from the fact that Queenston Mile Vineyard is the newest winery on the list. Celebrating its first anniversary this week, this is also the first time they are participating in the event. Getting people through the door to experience their “down to earth” vibe and their wines is a priority. As a scaled-back version of their sister winery, Creekside Estate Winery in Jordan, Queenston Mile offers quality wine in a distinct atmosphere. Currently the winery is exhibiting the artwork of Kim Odine, a local artist, known for her contemporary portraiture. While known for her portraits of famous people, such as Moses Znaimer and Michael J. Fox, the portraits on display at the winery include Queenston Mile staff and friends, adding a local and intimate feel to the surroundings. Taste of the Season participants are encouraged to sit back and enjoy the pairing of their 2016 Mile Red with Chef Ross Midgley’s Mexican turkey mole and ancient grain salad, and take in the art and atmosphere.
Also in the St. Davids Bench area is Château des Charmes, which offered their 2017 Pinot Noir paired with thyme-roasted woodland mushroom pâté with Ontario goat cheese. This was one of the vegetarian options offered by participating wineries.
Other vegetarian options were offered by the Niagara College Teaching Winery and Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery. Niagara College Teaching Winery paired their 2018 Tom Thomson Algonquin Red with a tomato Parmesan galette with a balsamic drizzle from Benchmark restaurant.
Wayne Gretzky’s Estates Winery paired their 2016 Estate Pinot Noir with Chef Dodd’s poutine, advertised as a duck fat fry poutine which features fresh cut fries with a hearty vegetarian and gluten-free gravy and curds. Next to Wayne Gretzky’s, Chef Frank Dodd offered participants another exquisite vegetarian option, a 2017 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay with a butternut squash soup with maple cream and candied walnuts. If the sample was not enough, this aromatic soup is also available at the Trius Winery Restaurant or the Trius Brut Bar.
Jackson Triggs Estate Winery offered their 2017 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir with a flavourful black pepper and rosemary grilled chicken. Pillitteri Estates Winery paired their 2017 Team Canada Red with traditional Italian meatballs in authentic marinara sauce and garlic crostini. In addition, $1 from the purchase of this special red will be donated to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support Olympic athletes.
The Hare Wine Co. offered their 2017 Crown Land Red (Cabernet Franc) paired with grass-fed chopped beef brisket sliders with Crown Land Red compote. Taste of the Season participants are treated like VIPs in the exclusive tasting room where they may meet tasting server Nadine Bobko. She explained the “tannins in the wine pair well with the protein of the beef and the sweetness of the compote and caramelized onions contrasts with the saltiness of the beef.”
When The Hare Wine Co. opened in November, 2016, Taste of the Season was the first Niagara event that they participated in. At the time, as a new small batch winery, they produced about 3,000 cases of wine a season. They now produce almost 6,000 cases. Owner John Hare showed his dedication to the winery and the event by working hard behind the counter, helping customers with their purchases and supporting his staff. He stopped only for a quick photo for The LOCAL as the staff worked to accommodate the bus tours, a wedding, and Taste of the Season participants.
With two more weekends to go in November, there is plenty of time to explore these and the other 16 participating wineries. Passes are still available for the remaining weekends. So take your time and enjoy what each winery has to offer. Savour the wine, the food and the atmosphere.
Tickets are $55 (plus taxes and fees) for the regular pass which includes the wine and food and $30 (plus taxes and fees) for the Designated Driver pass. The designated driver pass includes a non-alcoholic drink with food. The passes are valid for Nov. 15 to 17 and 22 to 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/event/taste-the-season/.