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Views from the Ontario Vines

“Wrapped up in the Valley, 2014”

By F.G. Couch

Twenty-four wineries. Twenty-four food and wine pairings. Twenty-four recipe cards.  Three weekends in November.  One passport.  Sounds great?  It's Wrapped up in the Valley, a passport event held each year in the Twenty Valley wine region of Niagara.  For one low price, the passport holder can visit all the participating wineries for a delicious food and wine tasting experience and collect a recipe card.  You can purchase a passport for any one of three weekends or, if you prefer, you can purchase a passport which allows you to visit the wineries on all three Sundays during the event. 

Once you've collected all the recipe cards you can put this recipe book together.  A great way to remember and to try all the delicious dishes you had during your tour of the wineries.

As an added bonus, passport holders can visit the Watering Can Flower Market in Vineland to participate in a holiday arrangement workshop.  You'll be able to take home your creation.  the Watering Can also provided hot apple cider and sweet treats.  The Watering Can is only open on Saturdays so be sure to go there on your first day.  If you have a Sundays only passport, you can still participate in any Saturday workshop during the event.

The twenty-four wineries were categorized into two groups - Twenty Valley East and Twenty Valley West so it is easy to plan your itinerary and route.  Wine Country Ontario has a Wine Route Planner online for easy driving directions to each winery.  Designated drivers get a reduced passport price and specialty mocktails instead of wine will be provided at each winery to go with the food sampling.  

Twenty Valley East


Hernder Estate Wines, 13th Street Winery, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Rockway Vineyards)

We started our wine tour at Hernder Estate Wines.  The jury is still out on whether or not popcorn goes with wine.  The truffle popcorn (melted butter, truffle oil and Parmesan cheese) with a Hernder 2009 Chardonnay may just change a lot of people's minds about this match.

Henry of Pelham served a walnut infused baguette with fig & Brie.  This went very well with the 2007 Pinot Noir.

Rockway was the only winery that served a sweet pairing.  A dark chocolate orange truffle was not a good match for the 2013 late harvest Vidal.  The chocolate just overpowered the wine.  I think this would have been better with an Icewine.


(L-R:
Calamus Estate Winery, Di Profio Wines, Cave Spring Cellars, Stoney Ridge Estate Winery)

The pairing at Cave Spring was a delicious Moroccan spiced meatball with pomegranate BBQ sauce with a 2012 Cabernet Merlot.

Stoney Ridge served up a braised beef empanada with caramelized Icewine onions with a 2010 Cabernet Merlot.  Unfortunately, the meat was very dry and probably overcooked.  Maybe a dipping sauce served alongside might have made this dish more enjoyable.  The wine was good, however.


Harbour Estate Winery, Flat Rock Cellars, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Creekside Estate Winery

At Harbour Estates we tried Grandpa's Harvest Chili, a family favourite.  Unfortunately, the grandfather passed away this summer but this was a fitting tribute to his memory.  The traditional beef chili was served with the 2013 Midnight Cabernet Merlot. 

One of my favourite pairings of Twenty Valley East was at Flat Rock Cellars.  The "Itty Bitty Pie Company" prepared  a Twisted Shepherd's Pie.  This is a take on the traditional Shepherd's pie but this one is baked in a pie crust.  The pie was served with the 2012 Red Twisted - a blend of Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot. 

A perennial favourite at Sue-Ann Staff's winery is a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich.  This year's sandwich was made with Pine River caramelized onion cheddar, a slice of Fuji apple and topped with Momma Staff's sweet and savoury raisin sauce.  The sandwich was paired with the 2012 Riesling "Loved by Lu", a semi-dry and refreshing Riesling.  The Cheesy Guys and Gorilla Cheese better watch out.  This one's a real winner.

Twenty Valley West


Vineland Estates Winery, De Sousa Wine Cellars, Tawse Winery, GreenLane Estate Winery


One of the most impressive and filling food items was at Vineland.  The Chef was on hand barbequing Chorizo sausage.  He served the sausage on a challah bun with roasted garlic aioli, pickled cabbage and Niagara Gold from the Upper Canada Cheese Company in Jordan.  The accompanying wine was a 2012 Chardonnay Musqué.  Perfect!

The jury is still out on the popcorn and Chardonnay matching!  This time popcorn was on the menu at De Sousa.  We enjoyed the 2013 Season's oak aged Chardonnay but took the popcorn home for later. 

Another winery that always has an impressive presentation is GreenLane.  Their dish for this event was Tuscan Turkey chili with a choice of 2013 Gamay or a 2012 unoaked Chardonnay.  Surprisingly, both wines went well with the chili.


Vieni Wines & Spirits, Kacaba Vineyards and Winery, Megalomaniac, Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

Vieni's pairing was a Rigatoni alla Boscaiola with wild mushrooms and sausage. The wine choices were the 2012 Briganti Red or the 2011 Briganti White.  Both wines went well with this pasta dish.
Chef Darren Stoute was on hand to prepare the duck confit braised in Kacaba Cabernet Franc served on a bed of Stilton Chipotle blueberry chutney on a crostini.  It was fitting that this was paired with a 2013 Cabernet Franc

Peninsula Ridge really got into the spirit of the event.  The winery was all decked out for the holidays with a fully decorated Christmas tree, decorations and gifts for sale.  They served up a large serving of roasted butternut squash soup with duck confit and arugula walnut pesto.  The wine that went perfectly with this dish was the 2009 Beal Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay - another perfect match.

Rosewood Estates, Angels Gate Winery, Mike Weir Winery, The Good Earth Food and Wine Company

At Angels Gate,  the beef stew was matched with a 2008 Mountainview Chardonnay.  We thought this was a strange combination.  However, they also offered a 2010 Cabernet Shiraz which was much better with the beef stew.  We asked why the Chardonnay was chosen and we were told there was a story behind the choice but the person didn't elaborate.  So the mystery remains.

I'm not a big fan of mushrooms so I was a bit hesitant to try the herbed forest mushrooms and creamed Chevrai (a soft unripened goat cheese) flatbread at Mike Weir Winery.  However, this was delicious and I ate the whole thing.  The earthiness of the mushrooms went really well with the 2011 Pinot Noir.

We thought another strange pairing was at the Good Earth - a Tuscan white bean soup, tomato, bacon mist and crumbled frico (cheese crisp) with a 2012 Cabernet Franc.  We noticed that they were pouring a 2009 Chardonnay as well so we asked if we could have a sample of that wine.  It went much better with the bean soup but I guess it's a matter of preference.

Overall, I would say that this was one of the best Wrapped up in the Valley events.  Not all the pairings were perfect but, for the most part, the wineries did a great job.  4 1/2 out of 5 stars!

For Wrapped up in the Valley and other Twenty Valley Association events visit the website at:
http://www.twentyvalley.ca.

Photos by © F.G. Couch


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