A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 580: Niagara Icewine Festival

Twenty Valley Icewine Festival events schedule 

Monday, January 11th: Wrote my Lexpert column on major cities around the world that have vineyards within their limits – Vienna, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Thessalonica, London, New York, San Francisco. Took Deborah and Pinot’s groomer Marilyn (who shares a birthday with Deborah tomorrow) to dinner at Balsamico on Yonge Street, just south of Grano. I ordered a bottle of Frescobaldi Campo ai Sassi Ross di Montalcino 2013. At the LCBO it costs $21.95; on their list it was $65 and they don’t pay the HST when they buy it. Monstrous mark-up. I had asked if I could bring my own wine but they said they have no BYOB license. Not going there again.

Tuesday, January 12th: Deborah’s birthday. She and her book club ladies went to the St. Anne’s Spa near Coburg so I was on my own. Wrote my Post City Magazines column. At 1:30 over to Michael Vaughan’s to taste a raft of icewines for a new project we’re doing together: a competition for the best sweet wines of the world. For dinner with beef stir fry, Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (richly extracted, concentrated black fruit flavours with well integrated oak – 89).

Wednesday, January 13th: A morning working on my novel and then in the afternoon Joanna Steele and Marc Lavadière came to the condo for a taste-off to decide the winner of my annual blind tasting award for the wine importers. Started them off with Beronia Tempranillo 2012. No clear winner. Then Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie 2011. Still no winner; so then I opened a bottle of Hillebrand Showcase Wild Ferment Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc 2012. And Joanna triumphed – the first woman to win the engraved decanter since I started the competition in 2000.

Taste-off: Mark v. Joanna

Thursday, January 14th: A Winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers with David Lawrason. For dinner, steak with Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2011 (Syrah/Carignan/Mourvèdre) – on the nose tobacco and black fruits with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry and savoury, herbal blackberry flavour with licorice notes and lively acidity.

Friday, January 15th: Picked up at noon by Niagara Airbus. Collected Michael Vaughan to be driven down to the Niagara Falls Hilton to participate in the Xerox Icewine Gala in the Grand Ballroom of the Fallsview Casino. This was the 21st year of the Icewine festival. On the way down we stopped in on Château des Charmes for a tasting of their sweet wines, presented by Michele Bosc and winemaker Amelie Boury. The first wine we tasted was a real showstopper!

Ch. des Charmes  Totally Botrytis Affected Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Ch. des Charmes great dessert wine

  • Ch. des Charmes Totally Botrytis Affected Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Bright ruby colour; honeyed plum nose; rich and full and mouth-filling, cassis, black cherry and plum flavours; beautifully balanced, lovely mouth-feel, good length; just enough tannin to give the wine structure. Fermented in oak. An amazing wine. (95)
  • Ch. des Charmes Riesling Icewine Paul Bosc Estate 2014: Pale straw colour; mango, honey, red apple nose with a light mineral note, floral top note; spicy, honey peach, mango and orange flavours, rich and full on the palate, great length. (92–93)
  • Ch. des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2014: Golden straw colour; honey, apricot nose; rich, burnt sugar, unctuous, intense honeyed flavours. Could do with a little more acidity. (94)
  • Ch. des Charmes Cabernet Icewine 2014: Ruby colour; strawberry jam nose with a herbal note; well-balanced, sweet but not too sweet, good mouth-feel with enough acidity to sustain well on the palate. (92)

Amelie Boury, Paul Bosc Sr., Michele and Paul Bosc Jr.

At the Fallsview Casino thirty-five Niagara wineries were showing their Icewines and a couple of table wines with a series of food stations dotted around the ballroom offering bite-sized plates of amazing food and a spectacular series of sweet tables. Great band and great energy in the room. Michael and I divided up the tasting chores. I concentrated on the Riesling and Vidal while he tackled the red Icewines. My top scoring wines were Ravine Vidal icewine 2013 (93) Trius Vidal Icewine 2012 (93),Vieni Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2014 (92), Riverview Cellars Vidal Icewine 2014 (92), Sue Ann Staff Vidal Icewine 2012 (92), Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine 2013 (92), and Tawse Chardonnay icewine 2013 (92).

Icewine Festival desserts

Saturday, January 16th: After breakfast Michael and I were ferried to Jordan Village for the Twenty Valley Icewine Festival. The wineries were set up in a series of tents. The weather was mercifully fine to be tasting outdoors. Braziers in the shape of pine cones had been placed around to help participants warm up. Dropped into Cave Spring to taste a series of their wines.

  • Cave Spring Indian Summer Riesling 2013: medium straw colour with a green tint; a nose of grapefruit and honey; off-dry, medium-bodied, well balanced, fresh grapefruit flavour with a lovely mouth-feel. (91)
  • Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2014: medium straw colour with a green tint; honey, grapefruit with a spicy, botrytis note; barley sugar flavour, great length with a bruised apple note on the finish. (92)

Icewine tents in Jordan (Ontario!)

Top wines tasted outdoors:

  • Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2014: pale straw colour; peach and honey nose; rich and sweet but nicely balanced – unctuous tropical fruit flavours with great length (93)
  • Malivoire Wine Company Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013: cherry red colour; a nose of strawberry jam; sweet and jammy on the palate, candy apple flavour with a fresh acidic finish. (91)

Finished the afternoon by watching the ladies’ barrel-rolling competition before heading home.

Sue-Ann Staff competing in the barrel rolling competition

Sunday, January 17th: Took the TTC over to Dean Tudor’s house for a tasting of New Zealand wines from the annual May tasting, which I missed as I was out of town. Sixty-four wines in all. My top scoring wine was an Elephant Hill Syrah but I know nothing about it – even the vintage – as it arrived without a front and back label. Other top scoring were Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (90), Trinity Hill by John Hancock Syrah 2013 (90), Marisco Vineyards The King’s Legacy Chardonnay 2013 (90), Akarua Rua Pinot Noir 2014, Whitehaven Wine Company Pinot Noir 2012 (90), and Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (90).

Trinity Hill by John Hancock Syrah 2013


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