A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 632: Icewine Festival

Niagara Icewine Festival ice sculpture

Monday, January 9th: A 10:30 am dentist appointment. My dentist has moved offices, which is always disconcerting. Then lunch with an old university friend, David Alexandor. For dinner, with chicken cacciatore, Kacaba Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 (pale straw colour; minerally, apple and lemon nose with light undergrowth notes; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted flavours of apple, pear and pineapple and a good mouth-feel (89)).

Tuesday, January 10th: Down to the LCBO lab to taste the rest of the January 21st Vintages’ release. Dinner – lamb chops with a bottle of Veedha Douro Red 2013 (deep ruby colour; dusty, earthy nose of blackberries with an oak note; full-bodied, savoury flavour of plum and mulberry with oak spice and supple tannins (88)).

Wednesday, January 11th: A winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers’s with a customary pizza for lunch. Dinner: grilled salmon with Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 (golden straw colour; buttery, sweet melon with a forest floor note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple and melon flavours tempered by lemony acidity, spicy oak and a touch of bitterness on the finish (88)).

Thursday, January 12th: Deborah’s birthday. Tried to get into Alo restaurant but no dice. So we went over to Deborah’s sister Suzanne and had dinner there.

Friday, January 13th: Picked up in a car to Join Tim Appelt and Michael Vaughan for the drive to Niagara Falls to attend the Xerox Icewine Gala at the Niagara Falls Hilton. But first we stopped in at Trius, where winemakers Craig McDonald (Trius), Emma Garner (Thirty Bench) and Katie Dickieson (Peller Estates) led us through a series of their wines.

  • Truis Brut Rosé (70% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay, with equal parts Gamay and Pinot Meunier): amber-pink in colour; raspberry, red apple skin nose with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, dry, strawberry flavour, clean and fresh with good length and a mineral lift on the finish. (89) ($29.95)
  • Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2015: very pale in colour; grassy, gooseberry nose with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry and crisp, green plum flavour, good acidity. Well-structured with an oak component. (87.5) ($14.95)
  • Trius Riesling 2015: pale straw colour; lime, apple with a honeyed note; light-bodied, lime and grapefruit flavours with a touch of honey and a little bitterness on the finish. (87.5) ($15)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot “Wild Cask” Riesling 2015: very pale straw; mouth-watering, grapefruit and lime nose with a light floral top note; light-bodied, crisply dry, lime and green apple flavours; elegant with great length with a pine needle note on the finish. Good tension between citrus acidity and residual sugar. (90) ($30)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Chardonnay 2015 (10% Chardonnay Musqué; 15–20% new oak): straw colour with a green tint; spicy, apple, apple blossom and citrus nose with a light toasty oak note; medium-bodied, apple and peach flavours, nicely balanced, good acidity. (89.5) (<$20) Good value.
  • Trius Viognier 2015 (three-year-old vines, barrel-fermented): light straw colour; peachy-apricot, citrus, minerally, floral nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced with a long finish. (88.5) (under $20)
  • Peller Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2015: ruby colour; ripe plum and cherry nose with a graphite notes; light to medium-bodied, fruity and fresh red plum flavour with lively acidity. Well-made, fresh finish. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir 2015 (60% Gamay/40% Pinot Noir): ruby colour; spicy, pencil lead, cherry nose with vanilla oak notes; sour cherry with lively acidity and a firm finish. (89) (<$20)
  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Pinot Noir 2015: ruby colour; earthy, raspberry candy and cherry pit nose with a light white pepper note; medium-bodied, dry, well balanced and delicate but firm. Good length. (90) ($24.95)
  • Trius Showcase Clark Farm Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; cherry nose developing barnyard notes with vanilla oak and rose petal notes; medium-bodied, dry, raspberry and cherry flavours. Côte de Nuits style with a firm finish. (91) ($36)
  • Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2014 (French oak): cedary, blackcurrant with a leafy-red pepper and vanilla oaks; medium-bodied, dry, full in the mouth, great mouth-feel with lively acidity, firm with good length. (90) ($42)
  • Peller Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: deep ruby with a mature rim; cedar, blackcurrant and plum nose; medium-bodied, elegant, dry, firmly structured, well-balanced, very Bordelais in style. (91)
  • Trius Shiraz 2015 (with a little Viognier): Dense purple, cedary, tobacco leaf, peppery, violets, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla oak nose with a floral note; dry, medium-full-bodied, elegant, St. Joseph style. (90) (~$19.95)

Trius Shiraz 2015

After the tasting we had lunch in Trius’ dining room before checking into the hotel in Niagara Falls. Changed into suits and ties for the gala downstairs in the ballroom. For tasting purposes, Michael, Tim and I had divided up the Icewines in the room. Michael took red Icewines, Tim Rieslings and I, Vidals.

Michael’s top red Icewines (20 tasted):

  • Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc 2015 (94)
  • Trius Showcase Cabernet Franc 2013 (92)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Franc 2013 (92)
  • Andrew Peller Signature Series Cabernet Franc 2014 (91)

Tim’s top Riesling Icewines (11 tasted):

  • Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine, Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard 2014 (94)
  • Colaneri Estate Winery Riesling 2013 (93)
  • Riverview Cellars Winery Riesling Icewine 2015 (93)

My top Vidal Icewines (22 tasted):

  • Colaneri Vidal 2014 (92)
  • Sue Ann Staff Winery Vidal Icewine 2012 (92)
  • Strewn Estate 2014 Vidal Icewine (91)
  • Jackson Triggs Vidal Icewine 2015 (91)
  • Vieni Vidal Sparkling Icewine 2014 (90)

Thirty-eight wineries poured their wines, each paired with a local restaurant (great food this year – and a spectacular display of desserts). Finished the evening in my room on the 31st floor watching a firework display.

Icewine Festival desserts

Saturday, January 14th: After breakfast in the hotel, Michael, Tim and I were driven to Jordan Village for Winterfest – a series of open-air tents in the parking lot next to the Inn on the Twenty. Twenty-three wineries, Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery and the Bench Brewing Company were teamed up with local restaurants. Michael picked up the butter tarts we had both ordered from the 13th Street Bakery (best butter tarts in the world!).

Winterfest tents

Before touring the tents we kept warm (it was freezing outside) by having a tasting of Cave Spring Cellars wines in their shop and tasting bar, conducted by Len Pennacetti.

Len Pennacetti

  • Cave Spring Riesling 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit and apple nose already developing petrol notes; light to medium-bodied, just off-dry, grapefruit with a touch of honey. Lovely texture and a bargain at the price – $15.95. (89)
  • Cave Spring Dolomite Riesling 2015: pale straw colour; minerally, apple and citrus nose; broader on the palate than the 2014 but elegant. (89)
  • Cave Spring Estate Reserve 2014: very pale in colour; petrol, honey and lime on the nose; light-bodied, green apple flavour with brisk acidity. (90)
  • Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, petrol, honey, grapefruit and lime flavours; spicy and beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Cave Spring Adam Steps 2015 (wild ferment): pale straw; a nose of sweet grapefruit with a lovely floral note. Light on the palate with great length. (89)
  • Cave Spring Riesling Dry 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, crisp, lemony nose; light-bodied, mouth-fresheningly dry with green apple and lemon flavours. Another bargain at $15.45.
  • Cave Spring Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Cave Spring Dolomite Pinot Noir 2015: ruby colour; minerally, cherry bouquet with an earthy note; medium-bodied. Dry cherry and cranberry flavours, firmly structured. (89)


Watched an outdoor fashion show featuring, among others, winemaker Sue-Ann Staff and celebrity chef David Rocco, parading clothes from local stores.

Sue-Ann Staff modelling

David Rocco modelling

Toured the winery tents and devoured chili, pizza and Icewine donuts before the car came at 2:45 pm to drive us back to Toronto. A great event; everybody seemed to be having an enjoyable time, in spite of the cold.


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