I Heart Icewine...

Icewine. A gift from old man winter. On the last weekend in January I was part of the iYellow Wine Club icewine tour. The tour took place during the annual Niagara Icewine Festival. I was so excited! I mean, I love going to wine country, but this was different. Nearly fifty of us  piled onto a giant bus and be driven around all day long. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It wasn't too cold and the snow was falling gently, creating a perfect picturesque drive. I have to add that the bus driver was just hilarious.

How was this big bus of eager wine lovers going to visit five wineries in one day? Well, let me tell you - we didn't have any trouble.  I just sat back and relaxed and let the day take me away. Angela of iYellow Wine Club (which you all should join) planned a fantastic tour. She kept the bus atmosphere upbeat and fun. There were draws for prizes throughout the day and snacks.

Check out the iYellow Wine Club:
http://iyellowwineclub.com

Sign up! It's completely free.

What's so special about icewine? The obvious is that it's a dessert wine. It's sweet. The uniqueness is that grapes are left on the vine well past the regular harvest. The temperature has to reach a minimum of minus 8 degrees celsius for a period of time (three consecutive days). The water in the grapes freeze (but the sugar does not) so the flavours become very concentrated. The frozen grapes are picked in the middle of the night by hand (that's rough for the workers I'd say). Each grape only contains only a few drops of juice so you need a lot more grapes to make a bottle of icewine compared to regular still wine. These are some of the reasons as to why icewine can be expensive. It's such a labour of love.

Some people find icewine to be too sweet.  The trick is to leave it in your mouth longer than you normally would for regular wine. Sweetness is detected at the front of your tongue so by leaving the wine in your mouth longer, you'll begin to notice all sorts of flavours develop.

A great explanation of icewine and the process:
http://www.inniskillin.com/en/ice/default.asp

For more information on the icewine festival:

http://www.legendsestates.com

Our first stop of the day was the Legends Estate Winery. The snow was falling and looking out into the vineyard, it was a beautiful sight. We had a treat at this winery - an icewine slushy served in a martini glass. Now that's how I like to start my morning!  We also tried some wines from the "Truth or Dare" series. The labels from this series were done by a tattoo artist and were really funky. I liked the white blend called "Truth".


http://www.creeksidewine.com

Creekside Winery was next. I've always wanted to go to this winery but somehow never made it. The barrel room was really cool. We sampled a Vidal icewine paired with roasted chestnuts. The wine was so luscious. After the barrel room (which I didn't want to leave...ever) I stopped by the tasting room. I continued my quest for sweet goodness with a sample of their Riesling icewine. Yum! Below is a short video taken inside the barrel room at Creekside.




http://www.flatrockcellars.com

After Creekside we continued our journey to Flat Rock Cellars. The owner of the winery gave us such an enthusiastic tour. I was clinging on to his every word. He spoke with such passion and conviction.  He explained his gravity flow winery and all the processes that are involved in the making of wine. We had the Sweet Revenge Vidal icewine which was surprisingly not as sweet as some other Vidals I've had before. It had some nice acidity to it.  I later tried some still wines and the one I enjoyed the most out of the ones tasted was the Gravity Pinot Noir.

Flat Rock has a really cool program called "in the winemakers's boots". You can go during some key times of the year to get your hands dirty at the various stages of winemaking. I'm definitely going to check it out. On the way out, we had a chance to roast some homemade marshmellows in the outside fire pit. They were divine squishy squares. Sugar is so great...

http://www.tawsewinery.ca

The next stop was Tawse. This is an organic and biodynamic facility. I'll have to do a blog post about biodynamic practices...they seem pretty kooky yet have a strong following. I love the Chardonnay coming out of this winery so I was excited to try their icewine. Two treats at Tawse. One, we did the tastings in the library which was pretty cool and second, we didn't try just one icewine...we tried three! Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc were on the menu.  My favourite was the Chardonnay icewine which was barrel aged. It was delicious! It was the highlight of my day. On our way out, I made a small stop at the tasting bar to try the Robyn's Block Chardonnay (lovely!).  I should mention that you can buy free-range eggs at the winery from their own chickens. Bawk Bawk!


Vineland Estates was the fifth and last winery of the day. We sampled a wide range of wines including the Reserve Charonnay, Pinot Menuier, Chenin Blanc and even an icewine martini called "Vice". The wines were paired with some yummy local cheeses. I purchased the 2008 Chenin Blanc (loved it) and some spicy sausage (also loved it) from the market inside. 

That was the tour! What a blast.  I'm sure that my blood sugar count was through the roof but it was worth it. I met some nice people and sampled some of Ontario's wonderful creations. I can't wait to be on board the next wine bus!

For more pictures of the day: