Saturday, February 3, 2007

Niagara Icewine Festival Highlights

The 2007 Niagara Icewine Festival (Jan. 19-28) was lots of fun. I toured a few wineries, enjoyed tastings at many more, and visited the Icewine Ice Bar--with chairs and tables made entirely of ice--at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Most icewines are made from the Vidal Blanc and Riesling grapes. Because the frozen grapes pressed to make icewine yield only about 1/10 of the juice of unfrozen grapes, icewines can get quite expensive. The average 375 ml bottle costs at least $40 and many go for around $100.

At the Jackson-Triggs winery, I enjoyed a uniquely interesting Gewürztraminer icewine. The Gewürztraminer grape was a refreshing change of pace from the more common Vidal and Riesling icewines. I don't usually care for Gewürztraminer wines, but I enjoyed this icewine, which was spicier and had more of a mango flavor than the predominately apricot-flavored Vidal icewines.

Inniskillin, one of Ontario's icewine powerhouses, is one of the only wineries to make a sparkling icewine. Made from the Vidal grape, it is refreshingly light, sweet and crisp.

I also tasted a variety of very nice Vidal and Riesling icewines at Coyote's Run, Chàteau des Charmes, Riverview Cellars, and Strewn Winery. I thought each of these wineries did a nice job balancing sophistication with a lack of pretension. Their icewines can be sampled at their tasting bars throughout the year.

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