Wine and chocolate. A dream pairing, right? Well… yeah, unless you’ve been rather ill and told that you need to give your innards a bit of a rest from rich food…. Ahem. Not ideal when Neil and I had been planning to go up to Niagara-on-the-Lake over the recent Family Day weekend to indulge in a weekend of wine and chocolate – the third weekend of Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s “Days of Wine and Chocolate”. The idea of the weekend is that you explore wine and chocolate pairings, touring the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Each stop features a premium VQA wine matched to a chocolate selection.
I’d been looking forward to this for a long time, had booked a room for a couple of nights at the Shaw Club and was in desperate need of some R&R, as was Neil. Thanks to the kind folks at Loud+Clear we were provided with two “passports”and, even though I was not up to much indulgence, we headed off anyway, figuring that Neil could be my palate for the weekend (such a hardship, right?). We’d had such fun at the spring “Wine and Herb” weekend in May and I had been wanting to check this event out since last fall’s media preview of WONOTL’s Taste the Season and Days of Wine and Chocolate.
Neil wrote up his notes for me of some of the noteworthy pairings so I’ll intersperse this with my photos. A note here – all pictures in this post were shot on my iPhone (and some edited in Instagram) so apologies for the less than stellar quality. But I am sure you get the idea…. Take it away Mr Neil:
“February’s Days of Wine and Chocolate attempts to pair those two, with a nod to St. Valentine’s Day. Overall, I have to say the pairings were “fine”, but not overwhelming. Unfortunately many lacked creativity, both in terms of the chocolates themselves, and the pairings. Many of the chocolates were rather large pieces of milk or dark, with a token addition (raisin, currant, pecan, et cetera). So right from the start, the chocolate itself was unbalanced – unable to highlight its flavour. Add this to the wine, and the pairing attempts were more often than not lost amidst chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.
Not that this is an entirely bad thing. Many of the Willow chocolates were quite nice, and the preferred match was predictably late harvest or Ice Wine offerings. In some cases these worked perfectly…but after your sixth sweet wine with chocolate, your palate is screaming for something a little different. At Marynissen Estates they asked if we’d be interested in chocolate-inspired for 2013, as opposed to just chocolates. A resounding yes!
Of the sweet selections, Inniskillin nailed it with their Cabernet Franc Ruby Reserve Icewine paired with triple chocolate biscotti with hazelnuts; this in fact was an added pairing from their planned 2009 WMS Cabernet Franc (which also worked).
Jackson Triggs paired a milk chocolate caramel pecan square with their 2007 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc Icewine. A fine wine, but the pairing with a Riesling version might have worked better; or switch to dark chocolate.
This, like many of the chocolates was just too large of a chunk of all chocolate. So sweet.
A slightly thinner chunk of chocolate studded with butterscotch, this was much more our style in terms of amount of chocolate.
Again, chocolate with some added dried fruit and nuts.
Points here for attempting to do something different – and the only winery we visited with white chocolate. The pairing, though, was overly sweet – a truffly ganache-filled white chocolate flavoured with pomegranate needed something a little less sweet than a Late Harvest Vidal mixed with bubbly…
On the savoury side, Ravine offered their 2010 Sand & Gravel Cabernet Franc with salted pretzel dipped in milk chocolate. The white pepper in the wine married to the salt of the pretzel nicely.
Lailey paired their 2010 Pinot Noir (still a tad young, in my opinion) with dark chocolate and juniper berries. The strawberry and spice of the wine worked well – but the chocolate should have been more juniper, less chocolate (again, one tiny juniper berry lost in a sea of chocolate).
Hillebrand paired their 2010 Trius Cabernet Sauvignon with dark chocolate infused with (the same) red wine. Again, it worked…but chocolate over-rode all else. (We also paired with the just-released Trius 2010 Red – a better match, in my mind.)
Savoury success was also found at Coyote’s Run, with their 2008 Meritage alongside a dark chocolate wafer with blueberries.
Points here for a subtle chocolate (and a pretty one).
Not quite the “orangette” we were expecting when we read “chocolate candied orange peel”… Nice sangria though!
Errr… no. This is not a meringue. It’s a macaron filled with (not enough) dark chocolate ganache.
Lastly, Stratus won major points for going completely off the charts, and pairing their 2008 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc with chocolate aux herbs de Provence. The vibrant grassy nose of the wine played off the herbs, and the grapefruit and fermented peach played off the chocolate. Inspired.
All in all, a fun visit to 16 wineries (bear that in mind. 16 wineries – even over two days = 16 chocolates. As in, a box of chocolates. It’s a lot of sugar). Some excellent late harvest and ice wines to be had – if not the most inspired pairings; some delightful savoury attempts; and only a couple of major disappointments on the wine front. I look forward to less chocolates, more chocolate inspirations, for 2013.”
Thanks Neil – I have to say, from the little I sampled, *I* felt like it was a sugar overload. But it’s a fun weekend trip and it does give you the chance to visit wineries you might not otherwise go to. If you go, plan wisely. And bring (savoury) snacks and water in the car with you. I wished we had brought soda crackers to cleanse our palates.
Days of Wine & Chocolate touring passes are $30 per person (plus applicable taxes) and can be used any of the event weekends (next weekend is the final weekend for this event). Touring passes can be purchased online or by calling Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake at 905.468.1950.
Disclosure: I received two complimentary “Days of Wine and Chocolate” passports courtesy of Loud+Clear. I was not otherwise compensated for writing this post and all opinions are 100% our own.