A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit the stunning Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and learn a thing or two about the incredible wines they make.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a world known mecca for stretches of vineyards and orchards of some of the best wineries in all of Canada. There are about 25 or more wineries all in close proximity from one another so you can easily spend a day or weekend touring the area, indulging in local foods and of course tasting wines from the pristine region.
Upon arrival of the elegant estate we were greeted by some of the welcoming staff who gave us a brief run-down of the day. Our tour guide first took us out to the immaculate vineyards that seemed to stretch out far beyond my eyes could see. I felt like it was the perfect time of the year to visit the winery as there was a brisk freshness in the air that made me appreciate the warming sensation of the wines even more. We first learned about the Peller Estates Ice Cuvée which is a sparkling wine made with hand-picked Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. A little bit of Vidal Icewine is added to the mix to create a unique variety of wine with a bouquet of apricot and apple, tropical fruits on the palette and a zesty grapefruit finish.
After admiring the yards, we made our way into the Andrew Peller Barrel Cellar which was a beautifully dimmed lit room with hundreds of aging wine barrels. The space was very charming and rustic making it the perfect atmosphere to start tasting some red wine! We tried a 2013 Vintage Meritage which is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The blend is aged for 12 months in oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation. This red is quite dry and full of dark fruit flavours. We paired it with some dark chocolate which really complimented each other quite nicely. The key to chocolate and wine pairing is to always make sure that the wine is sweeter than the type of chocolate, a piece of milk chocolate would not work well with this full-bodied Meritage.
After the barrel cellar we were off to the most exciting part of the tour, the 10 Below Ice Lounge! We were given some cozy Peller Estates parkas and smartphone savvy gloves before entering the 300 sq. ft. wine igloo. The lounge is maintained at minus 10 degrees so we all huddled in the lounge like hooded penguins admiring the ice sculptures, ice chandelier, ice bar and ice bench.
We tried three different ice wines in the lounge which really enhanced the experience as the room mimics the climate involved when harvesting the VQA Icewine. All of the wines were very impressive and made me realize that I don’t hate icewine any more. My only memories of icewine date back to 2004 when I tried a bottle of ice wine from my grandma. We all know grandmas are known to re-gift things and/or pick up things from garage sales so I already knew that this wine was not going to be drinkable. I took one sip and tossed the bottle out. It tasted like syrup mixed with sugar and rubbing alcohol. Since that moment I never gave icewine a second chance until my Peller Estates visit! I truly enjoyed the icewines here and was marvelled at the process it takes to make these wines. It takes ten icewine grapes to produce only 1 ml of icewine, the process seems daunting but the outcome is remarkable. My favourite was the unique Cabernet Franc Icewine which had a strong cherry and red currant presence. It was the right amount of sweetness and perfect mouth-feel.
As our tour neared the end, we had one last visit with Peller Estates Chef, Justin Parsons. Justin spoke to us about his journey as a chef and about the exquisite nibbles he prepared for us. A delectable spread of cheeses (some infused with icewine), breads, sliders, crab wonton, nuts and more.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Peller Estates Winery and would include this as a must-stop winery if you’re in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The estate itself is gorgeous but I really loved how the tour takes you on a journey through all of the different aspects that help make Peller Estates a world-renowned winery.
The winery is open daily from 10am to 9pm and you can book tours and tastings in advance at: http://www.peller.com/cms/peller/visit-our-winery/wine-tours-and-tastings.html