On Saturday October 17th I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 2009 Ontario Wine Awards Winery Tour. The tour was held as a 'thank you' for all of the sponsors that helped to make this years Ontario Wine Awards so successful. I can't imagine a better way to thank all of the people involved with the awards than to allow them to see first-hand where some of the award winning wines are produced, and what better time than harvest season! I have been to a few Niagara winery tours in the past, but being able to see it during the exciting harvest season was a whole other experience! You could feel the excitement being emitted from each winery as they prepared their grapes for what may be the coming years awards winning wines.
The itinerary for the day was as follows:
11:30 am Arrival at Jackson-Triggs Winery
11:30 am Sparkling Wine Welcome Reception
(in the Great Hall)
12:00 pm to 12:45 pm Private Tour of Jackson-Triggs
12:45 pm to 2:15 Lunch at Jackson-Triggs
(A fabulous 3-course meal was served in Jackson-Triggs traditional underground barrel cellar)
2:15 pm to 4:00 pm Private Tour of Chateau des Charmes
4:30 pm to 5:30 pm Closing Reception at Inniskillin
(During the reception we enjoyed a specially prepared dessert and was treated to an icewine tasting of both Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs icewines)
5:30 pm Return to Jackson-Triggs
The Sparkling Wine Reception in Jackson-Triggs Great Hall allowed guests to get settled in while drinking a glass of 2008 award winning sparkling wine 2006 Maleta Estate Winery VIEW Old Vines Brut Sparkling Riesling. We were then led out and into the vineyard to get a look and taste of the grapes at harvest time. After that, we were taken through the facilities to get to see the various steps that the grapes go through in order to produce the wine. Because it was harvest season, we were able to see the the machines pouring the freshly picked grapes to be prepped for crushing. The tour was much more than just a way to provide everyone with extensive knowledge on Jackson-Triggs' harvesting process, it was really something special as the entire Jackson-Triggs facilities was designed with the consumer and winery tours in mind. It was truly a gorgeous site.
After the tour we were lead into the Jackson-Triggs traditional barrel cellar where we were treated to a delicious lunch prepared by Great Estate of Niagara Chef David Penny and Sous Chef Tim Mackiddie.
Vidal French Onion Soup
Niagara Gold Crouton
2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir
Pan Seared Capon
Quinoa, Confit Cherry Tomato
2005 Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Estate Vineyard Chardonnay
The atmosphere in which our lunch was served was beautiful. The barrel cellar provided for an exquisite setting (it would make for one hell of a romantic dinner!) and it felt pretty awesome drinking such fabulous wine while surrounded by barrel upon barrel of finely aged wine. Because he was unable to attend the award ceremony in May, winemaker for Le Clos Jordanne, Thomas Bachelder joined us for lunch to tell us about the wine being served, about the passion of winemaking, and to receive his award for the OWA 2009 Winemaker of the Year. At the time of the awards, Bachelder had just stepped into of one of the most exciting moments in his career. At the 2009 Judgement of Montreal, an 'outsider' wine (a wine submitted unbeknownst to the panel) was submitted into the mix, this wine was Le Clos Jordanne's 2005 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay. Le Clos Jordanne shocked the judges when their Chardonnay beat out all of the wines from France and the United States. To read more about this great achievement, see the press release: Canada's Le Clos Jordanne Mimics the Movie 'Bottle Shock'. Wine writer, Order of Canada recipient, and founder of the Ontario Wine Awards, Tony Aspler presented Bachelder with the award and the traditional Winemaker of the Year gift, a beautiful watch.
After lunch was finished, we proceeded to our bright red double decker bus, which took us to the next winery, Chateau des Charmes. Once again, we were given a private tour of the winery, and learned all about the history of the Bosc family and their passion for wine, as well as a tasting session in one of the Chateau's tasting rooms. Chateau des Charmes looks like a fabulous chateau, as it was one of the first wineries in Niagara (and possibly even Canada...I can't recall) to design their winery with visitors in mind.
After that, we hopped back on the bus and were taken to the newly renovated Inniskillin Winery where we enjoyed a magnificent candlelit tasting in the barrel cellar. We tasted four different types of icewine, all served in Riedel Glassware. Each icewine was delicious, which says a lot coming from someone who isn't a fan of icewine. We tasted:
2007 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine
2007 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine
2006 Jackson-Triggs Gewurztraminer Icewine
2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine
It was difficult for me to pick a favourite, because I enjoyed all of them so much. But if I had to pick, I would say that the 2007 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine was truly something special. Our tour guide mentioned that many families have replaced champagne with this sparkling icewine to toast to at special occasions like Christmas or New Years. I think it may have to become apart of the Rose family Christmas this year! The icewines were paired with the final course of our lunch, a light and delicious Lemon Mousse with Almond Praline and Vidal Caramel, a dessert I must try to replicate on my own.
After a long and delightful day of wine tasting, touring, and eating, it was time to say goodbye to all the fellow guests, who might I add were all lovely, and head back on the road back to Toronto...well most people I guess. I met up with some friends and continued my fabulous day in Niagara Falls where we hit the casino for an evening of celebration!
To read my article on the 2009 Ontario Wine Awards, click here.