Over the weekend my family and I enjoyed a picture-perfect picnic at Niagara-on-the-Lake, the capital of Ontario's icewine region. The weather could not have been better, and the peaceful view of Lake Ontario was unbeatable.
We also stopped by Inniskillin, producer of both the highest quantity and the highest quality of icewine in the world. While we were there, we had the special privilege of tasting the icewine that garnered the highest award any Inniskillin wine has ever received. It was a 1989 Vidal Icewine. In 1991 at the VinExpo Bourdeaux, an international panel of judges awarded this wine Le Grand Prix D'Honneur, the fair's highest award. However the wine may have tasted to the judges in 1991 was surely nothing like what it tasted this weekend. Sixteen years of bottle aging had given the wine greater subtlety and an amber color one simply doesn't see in icewines. The fruity, apricot and tangerine aromas of its youth had given way to unique butterscotch and caramel aromas with quiet hints of raisins. It was truly a unique experience. A half bottle of this particular wine sells for $500, so don't expect me to bring it to your next party.
If you are interested in buying some icewine, I strongly recommend that you buy something from Inniskillin. Of the four primary varieties of icewine they market, I most strongly recommend their basic Vidal Icewine. It sells for around $50 for a 375ml bottle. Inniskillin also sells a more expensive, oak-aged version of this same wine, but it is less fruity and not worth the extra cost.
Inniskillin also makes a Cabernet Franc Icewine. It has a unique rhubarb and organge nose and is quite tasty. But it costs twice as much as the basic Vidal without being twice as good. Inniskillin also makes the only sparkling icewine in Canada, but again I think their basic Vidal Icewine remains the best buy.
Icewine pairs well with fruit-based desserts and strong, rich veined cheeses. Avoid serving it with extremely sweet and chocolate-based desserts. Because of its syrupy sweetness, icewine can also serve as a dessert all by itself.