“Extreme” Inniskillin or winter in Canada

Jan 21, 15 “Extreme” Inniskillin or winter in Canada

Earlier this month I jetted off to Ontario, Canada to check out their Ice Wine Festival and while I was there, we visited one of the legendary wineries of Canada, Inniskillin. The winery was founded in Niagara-on-theLake over 35 years ago by Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser. Their goal being to produce premium wine from the Niagara Peninsula.

Inniskillen vineyard

Inniskillin vineyard

This they did but not without a few bumps along the way.  In 1983, they attempted their first harvest of ice wine made from the Vidal grape. It was a great year for ice wine but unfortunately the birds thought so too and ate all the berries from the vines before they could be harvested. Lesson learned, the next year the winery put nets up around the vines so that the birds would not be able to eat 1984’s harvest and thus was Inniskillin’s first ice wine harvest. In 1991, Inniskillin was awarded the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo for their 1989 Ice wine. Since then, Inniskillin has been world renowned for their ice wine which they make from Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. They also produce still table wines from Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Merlot.

The Winesleuth and her harvest

The Winesleuth and her harvest

As we were in Canada in the middle of winter, we were just in time to participate in a little bit of ice wine harvesting. Inniskillin offers a myriad of wine tastings, wine and food matching sessions and events at the winery. Check out their website for more info. Anyway, back to harvesting. Most harvesting is done at night so that the berries are still frozen solid. This is done because if the grapes warm up and get mushy, it will affect the concentration and flavour of the wine. One of the main criteria for ice wine harvest is that the temperature must be below -8C for at least 3 or 4 days in a row before picking can commence. Although we arrived mid-day, they still let us pick a few grapes from the vines and believe me, at -25C, I was more than happy to pick only a few grapes before running back the campfire that they had going outside the tasting room.

just picked riesling

just picked riesling

We were lucky to catch Inniskillin head winemaker, Bruck Nicholson, hard at work at the press while we were there. Bruce and co were pressing riesing from the previous night’s harvest. We even got to have a taste of the “must” as it was coming out of the press – deliciously sweet but with that hit of acidity that makes it so special.

Head Winemaker Bruce Nicholson at the press

Head Winemaker Bruce Nicholson at the press

just pressed 'must' - mmmm

just pressed ‘must’ – mmmm

As part of our winter harvest experience, we had the chance to do some “Extreme” picnicking with the Inniskillin gang. For starters, Estate Chef Tim Mackaddie was on hand to grill up duck breast, forest mushrooms and grilled oysters with smoked ham paired with the Inniskillin Oak aged Riesling ice wine. The ice wine cut through the juicy duck and the beefy mushrooms and was a good match for the salty ham and oysters. After our starter huddled around the grill, we moved into the vineyard where a picnic table had been set up between the rows of vines. Here we were treated to a hearty beef stew and we had our choice of the Inniskillin oak aged Chardonnay or their Pinot Noir. I went for the Pinot and what a delight that was, having weight and depth to it, a good wine to wash down the stew.

picnic amongst the vines

picnic amongst the vines

For dessert, we first went back to the tasting room to sample their Cabernet Franc ice wine. Cabernet Franc has really taken off as an alternative to Vidal and Riesling in ice wine production, albeit, it’s still small in comparison. I found it to be really good with dark chocolate, having raison and spicy flavours and aromas with a good dash of acidity to maintain balance.

Inniskillen Cabernet Franc ice wine

Inniskillin Cabernet Franc ice wine

We got to make our own S’mores by the campfire and washed it all down with more Cabernet Franc ice wine. After all that ice wine and despite the cold, I was getting to be a bit tired so I gratefully bid the Inniskillin team good bye and headed back to the Pillar and Post Hotel, where we were staying, for a nice long soak in their hot spring.

S'mores and cabernet franc

S’mores and cabernet franc

S'mores!

S’mores!

I visited as a guest of Inniskillin and Ontario Tourism. All flights courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission www.en-corporate.canada.travel/

Oh, Canada

Oh, Canada!

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