Niagara is alive in September as the celebration of the vibrant local wine industry is upon us…all at the same time that the harvest hits in the vineyard. As your Niagara Wine Festival celebrations unfold, make sure you pay some attention to the centre of the event… the wineries.
The event series will offer you a few opportunities to indulge and explore the vinous portfolios that are putting Niagara on the map in the international industry. The most well-known is the market style set-up that lines Montebello Park. You buy tokens and redeem them for food and drink as you enjoy the entertainment on the main stage. What’s being offered for food and drink is what really gets this Niagara wine lover excited. Each winery will bring three or four bottles from their portfolio, and each of those will be wildly different from one another. Beyond that, you’ll have the opportunity to feast on local produce, impressive Niagara gastronomy, and some divine dessert options that will have you counting tokens for the next night’s meal!
But this is not your exclusive opportunity to explore just what our vines have to offer. Lets talk winery passports… If it sounds like fun, and that’s because it is an absolute blast for folks on both sides of the tasting bar!
Purchase a passport for $35 from participating wineries or from the Niagara Wine Festival office. This gets you six pairing experiences at wineries throughout the region.
A pairing experience is a taste of one or a few wines with a food pairing… we’ve perused the list and have some suggestions for the two primary wine areas in the region.
Twenty Mile Bench
You’ll often hear us profess our love for this winery as you read about Niagara wine, and the food that they are serving up sounds just as incredible.
Wines: 2007 Vintage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Vintage Reserve Merlot
Food: Pulled smoked beef topped with Celtic blue cheese crumble served on crispy crostini
If you haven’t been to this slice of the finer things before, this is the perfect opportunity to stop by. We love all things Good Earth, from table to glass, they are masters of what’s good and always on our list of what’s happening.
Wine: 2009 Chardonnay, 2009 Pinot Noir, 2010 Pinot Noir
Food: Rustic mushroom tart with optional bacon garnish (don’t let the humble title fool you, this food is going to knock your socks off)
This place is a special one. It is where I was married, where Russell Crowe flies in on his helicopter when in town, and where Niagara winemaker Brian Schmidt takes all of his infamous Instagram pics – if you aren’t following him on Twitter already, do! He is @benchwineguy and the narrative of his Niagara wine life is a great one.
Wine: 3 wines, 2 from the St. Urban Vineyard (best guess is Riesling), and 1 from the Bo-teek Vineyard
Food: 100% Canadian milk artisan cheeses
What is extra interesting about this pairing is the terroir of both items – you will taste where the wine is from, but also where the cheese is from. A little delicious education never did any harm!
Niagara on the Lake
A family-owned winery that has deep Italian roots that will shine through in the wines and in the pairing that sounds like one we couldn’t possibly miss out on!
Wine: 2010 Unita Cabernet Franc
Food: Succulent (their words!) lasagna steeped in a Bolognese sauce
A beautiful location that has teamed up with new local establishment The Garrison House as the food pairing at this stop. We love when wineries do this, it is a two birds with one stone taste testing opportunity… all kinds of awesome!
Wine: 2011 Pinot Gris, 2011 Pinot Blanc
Food: Slow cooked pork, Niagara apples and rosemary
They have featured this foodie favourite before, and back by popular demand in 2012 is the Trius Burger Bar! The wines at this location are exceptional, and if you’re in the market for some bubbly to top off the celebration, the Trius Brut is affordable, consistent and delicious!
Wine: 2010 Trius Cabernet Franc
Food: Canada’s Best Wine Burger! These will be of the mini-burger variety, but we know they are still going to over deliver on delicious!