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Niagara Icewine Festival is liquid gold in a glass

Is cabin fever setting in early? Already planning your weekend?

Take a short getaway to the Niagara Icewine Festival which continues the next two weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 22-24 and Jan. 29-31 at wineries throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Twenty Valley region in Ontario.

If you are remotely interested in food and wine we urge you check out this super fun event. First, you won’t find a better bargain. Don’t mess around paying $10 at each winery for the experience. Go right for the Discovery Pass, which gives you eight experiences of your choice.

Purchased the pass either online or at the first stop on your visit. At $40 Canadian (ours were $31.25 U.S.) you get generous servings of wine and hors d’oeuvre-sized food (some bigger). In other words, we were stuffed.

Second, you’ll learn about icewine, like harvesting can take place anywhere from November through now, as long as the temp hits -8 degrees Celsius. The word “brix” means sugar and there are actually different levels of sweetness measured by number. The higher the number, the sweeter the wine. Icewine can comes from different grapes like Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Ultimately we just really like good food and drink. The festival delivered. Look for a One-Tank Trip in Sunday’s Buffalo News, but in the meantime, here’s something to whet your appetite.

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Inniskillin Winery

Although we were in Canada, we have to say the chef’s twist on Southern Chicken & Waffles with Riesling Icewine Butter was outstanding. Housemade hot sauce really made the dish. It was served with a fantastic Riesling icewine.

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Reif Estate Winery

Spit Roasted Porketta with Apple Icewine Sauce.

Spit Roasted Porketta with Apple Icewine Sauce.

Oh, lucky for us pork and icewine go together like PB&J. Porketta — a slow, roasted, fatty herbed pork delight — was sliced and served slider style with a glass of Vidal icewine. As a bonus we got to see a whole pig roasting in the coolest custom-made propane roaster we’ve ever seen from caterer PigOut Roasters who donated it for the event. We were told it can also hold up to 20 chickens.

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Peller Estates Winery

Homemade Icewine Marshmallows

Homemade Icewine Marshmallows

One of the rules of serving icewine with a dessert is to make sure the dessert isn’t sweeter than the wine.

Roasting marshmallows at Peller Estates was a smoky, but fun affair.

Well, the homemade marshmallows we roasted were good (and tons of fun to play with), but way too sweet. The Cabernet Franc Icewine was good but masked by the ultra-sweet marshmallow.

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Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

Goat cheese and olive pizza with house cured lamb bacon. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

 

Ice sign greets visitors at Jackson-Triggs. Look close, are there supposed to be bottles of icewine in the holes at the top? Hmmm.

Who doesn’t love a good slice of pizza, especially one with homemade lamb bacon? We could have eaten tons of this flatbread topped with olive tapenade, goat cheese, arugula and said bacon (the pork–ish element). The Cabernet Franc icewine served with it matched perfectly.

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 Strewn Winery

Mini waffle topped with Icewine Syrup, Niagara Maple Ice Jelly and Niagara Apple Snow, served with a delicious small-batch, collectors icewine. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

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Dessert item No. 2 was a mini waffle topped with maple ice jelly and “apple snow” which was really cooked apples. The entire dessert was topped with an icewine syrup.

Here, the chef got it right as the Vidal icewine was sweeter than the dessert. As a matter of fact, we aren’t connoisseurs by any means, but we could totally taste the apple flavor of the wine thanks to the waffle.

"Oliv" tasting room at Strewn Winery.

"Oliv" tasting room at Strewn Winery.

Be sure to check out the olive oils and balsamic vinegars for sale at Strewn. The owner is from South Africa, as are the olive oils. Balsamics come from Italy. Taste-test any of them.

The helpful saleswoman steered us to a great combination — lime oil with a passion fruit white balsamic. The exchange rate means you can stock up. And when you buy five bottles you get a sixth free.

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Konzelmann Estate Winery

Spicy Atlantic Chowder from Konzelmann Estate Winery. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to the News)

While the winery here was just OK in terms of ambiance, the little cup of Atlantic seafood chowder was really good. Eating it with tiny gelato spoons, it had a definite kick. The Vidal icewine it was served with was a really good combination.

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Trius Winery

Mmmm, more pork. This is a gourmet breakfast muffin with peameal bacon and a homemade icewine onion marmalada. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

Who doesn’t love a gourmet McMuffin? This version skipped the egg and cheese but combined really good slices of peameal bacon (pork again, yeah) and homemade icewine onion marmalade into a panini-like sandwich. Served with a delicious Vidal icewine, we consumed them outside by a fire and propane heaters. A very tailgate-ish experience.

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Château des Charmes

A pork belly taco from Chateau des Charmes was the perfect ending to our tour. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

Last but not least, more pork, this time a mini pork belly taco with apple onion slaw. A delightful morsel served with a Vidal icewine.

Each winery had gift shops selling everything from wines to food items. In addition to the olive oils at Strewn, we saw these juices from the Niagara Juice Company at several locations.

Vidal grape juice from Niagara Juice co. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

 

Many wineries sold gourmet food items, like these well as items like this Savoury Jelly. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

 

Beautiful glassware, wine decanters and items like this fondue set were readily available too. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

 

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With better planning we would have stayed for dinner, or even done brunch before the tour. The winery restaurants are incredible. Here are menus from Strewn Winery. A Filet Mignon is $43 Canadian.

Strewn Winery's dinner menu.

Strewn Winery's dinner and menu. As of this writing, the Filet Mignon would be about $29 in U.S. funds, which means you can eat like a king or queen. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

 

Strewn's brunch menu. Many of the winery restaurants serve similar brunches.

Strewn's brunch menu. Many of the winery restaurants serve similar brunches.

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If you still haven't had enough food, we suggest two places to check out right along Niagara Stone Road, in the heart of wine country.

Picard's Peanuts sells everything nuts, including Ontario grown.

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Valencia peanuts from Picard's Peanuts. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

And last but not least, we love The Pie Plate Bakery & Cafe. They will box up a pie to go! A sweet ending to a perfect day.

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The Pie Plate Bakery and Cafe. (Emeri Krawczyk/Special to The News)

 

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