Lifestyle Travel The Taste of Canada
The Taste of Canada
Written by Bruce McKay
Monday, 02 October 2017

29092017-IMG 0006Niagara-on-the-Lake is one place that ‘comfortable’ Canadians live, often in retirement. The town, which features 19th-century buildings, sits on the shores of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Niagara River that forms the current border with the US.

Back in the good old days, it was a busy steamboat port for Toronto. Near the river, 19th-century Fort George was built by the British to defend against American attacks. The townsite took on its current name in 1880 (it was called Niagara, and Newark before that when it was also the first capital of Upper Canada, now the province of Ontario). The renaming helped distinguish the townsite from Niagara Falls, which is not far away (but that’s another story!).

Niagara-on-the-Lake is currently known for its wineries and summer festival and, with a population of just over 17,500 people, its cosy exclusivity. One winery is Peller Estates, which at first glance doesn’t offer much more than many of the Swan Valley or Margaret River Wineries.

However, their signature wine is their dessert Icewine, which you can taste on a tour of the winery, complete 29092017-IMG 0002with gloves etc. in the 10-below ice-room. Icewine is so named because grapes are hand-picked at night while at least at -10ºC, with the grapes frozen on the vine. The picked grapes are pressed immediately and each frozen grape is said to yield just one drop of juice. (Interestingly, the vineyard is on the same latitude as the south of France but local conditions give them freezing winters each year.)

Looking at the Peller Estate website, their chef Jason Parsons (who has been at Peller Estates for over 20 years) is big on how food and wine are combined to complement each other.

At a sit-down tasting, we chose their five-course degustation. Ashley Hughes, our waiter on this occasion, first gave us a choice of fennel, raisin or semolina breads. Then followed:

  1. Ice Cuvee Rose (RRP CAN$36.95) was coupled with Duck Rillette (with garlic, house pickles, swiss chard, and cherry compote).
  2. Riesling 2015 ($17.95) was accompanied by Eggplant and Tomato Cheddar Scone, with oven dried tomato and olive oil.
  3. Chardonnay 2015 ($19.95) was served with Diver Scallop (featuring warm pea salad, chilli tomato relish, pommes pailles and mint balsamic)
  4. Carbernet Sauvignon 2014 ($22.95) came with either:
    Rabbit Saddle stuffed with cabbage, cherries, panko navy beans, swiss chard and cherry jus, or
    Beef Rib Eye with smoked potato mousseline, tri carrots, leek and bone marrow jus, or
    St Honore pastry base with goat’s cheese, red onion and warm toasted almonds and poppy seed.
  5. Icewine Cabernet Franc 2014 ($95.85) served with our choice of a smooth almond Pannacotta, or two delicious combinations of chocolate and gourmet cherries.