You may have noticed that I often feature posts on Niagara Falls and surrounding areas. This one will be no different, as this is our third year attending the region’s Icewine Festival. Here are a few highlights, a couple of new wineries and a few tips when booking your own future visit.
*If you haven’t already ready my first post about the Icewine Festival from 2017, make sure you take a peek there first.
As usual, we chose our wineries based on the pairings in the festival guide (we don’t just go for the wine, but also for the food!), with the intention of doing some popular repeats and also exploring a few new wineries. This year we bought our Discovery Passes online and used the ICEDP19 promo code, which saved us $5 per pass. It’s not a lot, but multiply that by 4 passes and you just saved $20! We also had the idea of using Google My Maps to map all of the wineries in the two areas (Twenty Valley and Niagara-on-the Lake – or NOTL) and used a colour coding system to mark which ones we were hitting up this year. This way, next year we can just update our choices and plot a new course to each with the click of a button (plus less paper used).
This year, we prioritized the following wineries:
Flat Rock Cellars (1st visit) - tandoori meatballs paired with riesling icewine
We enjoyed the food and drink. The tastings were held in a back room, but we enjoyed taking photos on the property (a large wood-burning firepit outside) and enjoyed the view from inside the retail store. We also picked up a bottle of Twisted, which we discovered we liked on a whim when we purchased it at the LCBO. I’d love to stop by in the summer and see what the property looks like.
Kacaba Vineyards - Moroccan spiced jumbo prawns with gewürztraminer icewine
Kacaba was a repeat for us. We know the jumbo prawns are good and the icewine was alright for our tastes. It was very busy though and as it is a smaller venue, a bit tight to maneuver around indoors. Plan to visit on a Friday if possible, with fewer crowds.
Magnotta Cellars (1st visit) - spicy tacos (beef or chicken) with peach salsa and riesling icewine
This was our first Magnotta experience. We arrived late on Friday here and had essentially personal service in the tasting room – we enjoyed the reisling quite a bit and the tacos were pretty good as well. We explored the store and he had taste-tested an apple cider wine, which we ended up purchasing and a mango flavoured white wine as well.
Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery - sweet potato and mushroom parfait, with candied salmon paired with vidal icewine
We love visiting at Sue-Ann Staff. The staff are always so friendly, plus I love seeing Brix on the way in (their personal greeter). Although the venue is small and often busy, we always feel the personal touch every time we visit. We LOVE their sweet icewines and this year’s food paring was also very tasty! We always purchase a bottle of the icewine and this year, we also purchased a baco noir, which the hubby loves and has difficulty finding.
Megalomaniac Winery (1st visit)* - brief stop in and photos
We only stopped in to see the retail store and the view. My parents had been the day prior and the sight was definitely worth seeing. The winery has very strong branding and comes across as eccentric, but fun. We’ll have to stick around longer next time.
Vineland Estates Winery (1st visit)* - brief stop in and photos
Again, only a brief stop in to see the space and snap a couple of photos. I liked the set-up in the retail/lounge space and discovered a local artist who paints using wine (and I thought her work was really good too). Another spot to bookmark for next time and likely a nice summer spot too.
Inniskillin Wines - southern fried chicken on vanilla waffle paired with sparkling vidal icewine
Repeat visit for Inniskillin. We weren’t excited for their food pairing, but more-so for the sparkling vidal, which wasn’t very common this year. It was busy as usual, but we did get a table and had time to sit and chat. We also explored their retail store for the first time – it’s quite large and I found the moose rock interesting.
Marynissen Estates (1st visit) - spicy coconut curry chicken soup with vidal icewine
Marynissen was a smaller winery, but the food pairing was good (and spicy) and we took some photos within the retail space as well. Tasting was held in a smaller back room, with space for maximum of 8-10 people.
Palatine Hills Estate Winery (1st visit) - pork rillettes with spiced apple compote and vidal icewine
A very small winery, with minimal décor. But very reasonably priced wines. The icewine wasn’t really for us, but we did purchase two whites to try at home.
Peller Estates Winery - famous icewine infused marshmallows with cabernet franc icewine
We arrived 10 minutes before icewine tastings ended for the day, so we hurried in to get our big marshmallow and icewine. Roasting and eating the marshmallow was messy as usual, but always worth it – we love the experience (even if we smell like smoke for days afterwards because of the bonfire). The retail store seemed barer and the prices seemed steeper than usual. We’ll stick with the simple experience.
Pillitteri Estates Winery - philli cheesesteak sandwich and cabernet franc icewine
Disappointing experience this year. We loved this winery in years past and have purchased too many bottles of icewine from Pillitteri. The place was overcrowded, there was a line up for the icewine tasting (starting on the first floor), none of the staff explained what we were eating or drinking and just wanted to get through the line as fast as possible. The food wasn’t anything special and we weren’t intrigued by their icewine this year. Nothing to highlight this year.
Vignoble Rancourt Winery - popular chicken Thai soup paired with gewürztraminer icewine
Previously Rancourt without the Vignoble, the soup went over well with us once more. Although it was busy and seating was limited, staff took their time and people were considerate and left once finished. We enjoyed the pairing and headed on our way.
Within the icewine tasting hours of 11:00am-5:00pm, we can usually hit 8-10 wineries per day if planned strategically. Again, we try to explore new wineries each year and hit the special ones that we enjoy every time. If you have indulged in this festival, don’t be shy - share your favourites!
I’m working my way through life in Canada and traveling when I can afford to explore beyond the border. Sharing my tips, trips, opinions and rants on life and travel in the meantime.