Days of Wine and Chocolate

The quote above has been my motto recently.

Just when I thought winter MIGHT not be so bad this year, February happened. We have had a couple of weeks with temperatures of -35 with the windchill, and mountains of snow. Yes, -35 and non-stop snow!! Ridiculous, I say. The snow is so high that my front yard reminds me of the pyramid of Chichen Itza.

Alright, alright, I’m exaggerating. Just a little.

I know I can’t change the weather, no matter how much I complain. So as my quote above says, coffee will help me change the things I can, wine the things I cannot. And wine is not too hard to find around these parts, thankfully.

This month, the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake have been hosting the Days of Wine and Chocolate. So over the last two weekends, I have been getting to as many wineries as I can for these pairings. I love wine, I love chocolate. What more is there to say?

Lots. Though I have honestly enjoyed just about every pairing I have tried (eleven, so far), there have been a few that just had that little something extra, for different reasons.

I’ll start with Hinterbrook.

The staff at Hinterbrook were so lovely. Silly me, I did not realize passes were only available for purchase online. They patiently helped us through purchasing on our phones, and we got stuck. Several times. While I was waiting for this purchase, they graciously offered me a sample anyway. I let Ken worry about the technological stuff, while I got to tasting, starting with the zingy and zesty 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.

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When I drink Sauvignon Blanc, all I can think of is summer. I hope summer comes back one day. When it does, I will return to Hinterbrook and enjoy a glass of this in their lovely outdoor area. This thought will help to get me through winter.

But back to the tasting.

Technological issues resolved, we proceeded to try the 2012 Cabernet Franc paired with Cabernet Franc Chocolate Cake.

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I love red wine. I could honestly drink it with just about anything, I’m not that fussy. But I have always loved it with chocolate desserts, so this was a classic pairing for me. Now I just need to find a recipe for Cabernet Franc chocolate cake, and will recreate this at home.

Next, we decided to head to Rancourt Winery. I was so curious about their featured pairing – 2012 Chardonnay Reserve with Lobster Bisque, garnished with white chocolate shavings. I am not a big white chocolate fan, but thought this could work quite well.

Was I ever right. This was a fantastic pairing.

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Rich and creamy – both the soup and the wine. The white chocolate seemed to add just that extra touch of sweet and smooth. I loved it so much I came home with a bottle of the 2012 Chardonnay Reserve, the recipe for the bisque, and the chocolate that they used for the garnish. This I will most certainly recreate at home.

I was blown away when they told me the price for the 2012 Chardonnay Reserve – $22.95. It is a delicious wine, and at that price a great value. Go to the winery and get some today.

I also love the relaxed vibe at Rancourt. My opening quote was found in their wine shop, and there are other humorous wine quotes sprinkled throughout the store

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Then we were off to Stratus. I have waxed poetic about my love for Stratus before. Really, what’s not to love?

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So, I love Stratus. However, I do not love beets. I have tried beets SO many ways – “because they are good for me!” –  so you can’t say I haven’t tried. No matter how I prepare them the only thing I taste is “Earth” – and not in a good way. I was a wee bit hesitant because the pairing here was Roasted Fennel, Beet and Dark Chocolate Salad. But I figured “Even if there are beets, chocolate will make it taste better. And Stratus wine makes EVERYTHING taste better, so how can I lose?”

Indeed.

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The result? The beets did not give me that overwhelming “mouthful of earth” – the flavour was more subtle. Truthfully, I don’t think beets will ever be on my list of favourite foods, but this was good for beets. And of course, paired with Stratus 2010 Tollgate Fume Blanc, even better.

Fume Blanc is not a wine I would typically buy. I am a die-hard Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Stratus White kind of girl. The gentleman I was chatting with explained that this wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and was barrel aged in French oak for just under two years. I asked for suggestions for what else to pair it with food-wise, and he suggested anything with a vegetal, green component. Think asparagus risotto. Maybe something mushroom based. This is sounding kind of “earthy” isn’t it? So, I guess that’s why good old beets work too.

But, seeing as this was our last stop of the day – and well, because it’s Stratus – I decided to have a tasting flight.

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I decided to stick mostly with whites. Oh my.

The 2012 Stratus Chardonnay was simply divine. The description of the wine on Stratus’ website does it way more justice than I ever could. I also loved the 2011 Stratus Viognier. The 2010 White Meritage was delicious – a blend of 41% Sauvignon Blanc and 59% Semillon. I can’t find this wine on their website, but I believe they have just added it to the tasting menu. So you will just have to go to the winery and try it yourself. You can thank me later.

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Ken could see me swooning with delight, so I got some of the 2012 Stratus Chardonnay, and some Wildass Red. I had visions of saving the Chardonnay for those beautiful days of summer that I hope will one day be returning. Sitting in the yard, perhaps with a good book, while Ken grills something delicious. I can just picture the sunset, I can feel that warm breeze.

But then reality set in. I don’t think I can keep it that long in my cellar. Like my first quote said, wine will help me to accept things I can’t change – like the dreary days of winter. And with the lovely wines I tried and bought, that just might help me make it through.

What wines help make winter bearable for you?

  • So glad you enjoyed your visit with us. We’ve had a lot of fun with the fennel, beet and chocolate salad – itself quite an unusual combination – paired perhaps unexpectedly with our 2010 Tollgate Fume Blanc. An eye-opener, to be sure! And yes, the 2010 Stratus White Meritage is on the tasting bar for a short stay. A delicious wine in the classic style of a Bordeaux white, it comes and goes in our Stratus portfolio.

    • Thanks! I always enjoy a visit to Stratus. The White Meritage is definitely delicious. I hope this post encourages people to get over to Stratus and get some before it goes away!