Champagne is to France, so icewine is to Canada. There is no other place in the world with conditions that encourage the production of such a luscious and decadent drink.
In Canada, it started with Inniskillin Wines in the mid '80s, so it makes sense that today co-founder of Inniskillin, founding chairman of the VQA and Order of Canada recipient Donald Ziraldo is focused solely on continuing his role as global ambassador for Canadian icewine with Equifera Icewine ($49.95, CSPC 258715; equiferaicewine.com). Equifera is a classy lady, elegant and subtle, yet with a latent intensity to its dried peach, blanched almond and fleur del sel notes, as tropical fruit hints linger on the citrusy finish.
While vidal is the original choice of grape for icewine, not all icewine is made from vidal. At Fielding Estate Winery (fieldingwines.com) in Beamsville, they've sectioned off a portion of the Vignole block to produce icewine ($34.95/200 mL). This non-traditional grape variety produces a wine with an unusual intensely pineapple flavour followed with sheets of citrus acidity and a seductive, elusive hint of honey. It's truly unique in the world of icewines. There's only a few bottles left and their vidal version, ($22.95/200 mL) is one of the better vidal icewines around.
Stratus 2008 Semillon Icewine (stratuswines.com, $44) is another unique sip. This icewine delivers a candied quality to the tangerine, mango and jellied citrus flavours that float across a full tropical fruit body. A kiss of honeysuckle and whisper of minerality linger long after. It's a lovely sip with a cheese and charcuterie platter as it adds an element of luxury to the occasion.
There is a beautiful little boutique winery on the Niagara River Parkway in Queenston on your way into Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Ice House (theicehouse.ca) is a winery dedicated to the perfection of icewines. Winemaker Jamie McFarlane has a long history of winemaking in Niagara and crafts award-winning, uber delicious icewines. His Northern Ice 06 Vidal Blanc Icewine ($65/375 mL) has won the prestigious Grand Gold in the Monde Selection, a widely respected European competition. Grand Gold is an award given to the best of the gold winning class of wines reflecting just how perfect McFarlane can craft an icewine.
Northern Ice is an icewine that is warmer and richer than most. It starts with a rich concentration, depth and intensity in the apricot, peach and passion fruit flavours. The succulent nature delivers harmony and grace with a lilting, sassy finish that dances across the palate.
The Ice House offers a special treat for icewine lovers. Visit the winery and sip what they call an Icewine Slushie. A dribble of icewine is poured over the top of crushed ice in a shooter glass. Let the ice temper the big flavours into elegant sips and you'll fall in love with icewine all over again.
Peller Estates Winery (peller.com) also offers a special treat for icewine lovers: Boot Camp for Bon Vivants an Intense Icewine Weekend. It's two days of extreme icewine experiences from the vineyard to the cellar and the dinner table. Led by winemaker Lawrence Buhler, the emersion in icewine is not for the faint of heart but definitely one of Niagara's hedonistic experiences.
One of Canada's largest public pourings of icewine is to take place at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls. Media and dignitaries from around the world will be present at Icewine Unveiled, A Masquerade Gala on January 13. The Masquerade Gala is the inaugural event to the 16-day Niagara Icewine Festival. For tickets and information: icewinefestival.com
““ Lynn Ogryzlo is a food and wine writer and author of The Ontario Table, an international award-winning cookbook. You can reach Lynn for questions or comments at ontariotable.com