For any of you who haven’t done Days of Wine & Chocolate, I highly recommend it!! Wine and food pairings….need I say more?!? It is on for the month of February in Niagara-on-the-Lake and we went for the long weekend (family day weekend) with my brother and sister-in-law. We stayed at an Airbnb in NOTL which you can find here. Ken is the best host and his location was perfect. Close to downtown NOTL and within driving distance of the wineries.
So what is Days of Wine and Chocolate? 24 wineries in NOTL participated this year and you get a 1 ounce wine tasting with a sweet or savoury chocolate-infused food pairing. Are you convinced yet? 😉 The pass is $55. There is also a pass for DD’s which is $30. Also….fun tip!…they have other events like this throughout the ear. In May they have Sip n Sizzle and in November Taste the Season. These events are the same idea but one has BBQ fare and the other is tasting the seasons bounty with more fall/cozy inspired pairings 🙂
So did we make it to all 24 you ask? Of course we did! We did 12 on Saturday and 12 on Sunday. Below you will find a review of each winery we went to. I am no sommelier but I hope you enjoy this review and I hope it inspires you to go!
DAY 1: SATURDAY
STOP # 1: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
2017 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir paired with dark chocolate chicken mole tostada.
RATING : 7.5/10
The flavour of the chicken mole was delicious but the temperature was luke-warm and the chips were incredibly salty.
The Pinot Noir wasn’t the most superb I’ve ever tasted and fairly weak tasting. Although Pinot’s usually are compared to the other reds.
Overall it was an ok pairing to start off our tour!
STOP # 2: Ferox by Fabian Reis
2017 Elements Rosé paired with cocoa and buckwheat blini duck Confit and pomegranate.
This was by far the most sophisticated and interesting pairing for me. I hardly ever have duck. The duck confit on the cocoa pancake with pomegranate was an interesting bite! I can’t say I love duck confit but I give this winery A+ for creativity! The rose was delightful and it really brought out the pomegranate notes.
STOP # 3: Joseph’s Estate Wines
2019 Arancia skin-fermented white paired with dark chocolate Panna Cotta shooters with mixed berry coulis.
This was an interesting pairing. I don’t usually think of pairing a white wine with dark chocolate and let me tell you I think there is reason for that after this tasting. The Panna Cotta shooter didn’t wow me and the chocolate flavour wasn’t very sweet. The wine was too sour to pair with the dark chocolate. Therefore, this was probably one of my least favourite pairings.
STOP # 4: Pillitteri Estates Winery
2015 Exclamation Merlot paired with a dark chocolate Ganache tart with a raspberry duo.
The Merlot was superb! The tart was, well, just a tart. Nothing special. However, this winery gets extra points b/c they did free tastings of 2 of their other premium reds. So if you want more tastings go here 😉
STOP #5: Pondview Estate Winery
2017 Cabernet Merlot paired with our delectable spiced cocoa rubbed pork back ribs with a rich and smooth chocolate infused BBQ sauce.
Hands down one of our top favourite stops! The Cabernet Merlot was fantastic, so fantastic that we bought a bottle! And the ribs were to die for…. soo good! They also provided free cheese and chocolate tastings. A winner in our books for sure 🙂
STOP # 6: Trius Winery at Hillebrand
2018 Trius Cabernet Franc paired with Chef Dodd’s sweet chocolate & almond pretzel.
I laugh when I remember this tasting because their pretzels where so huge! They were a meal in itself! The pretzel was decent but I think I could find a better recipe 😉 The wine was average. Trius always has such fun merchandise and I always want to buy the whole store!
2016 Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Red paired with a dark chocolate and chilli beef stew with Smoked Cheddar and sour cream with a cocoa nib.
I did not like the wine, I would give it a 6. I found it fairly weak but the chilli was pretty good! The only thing I will note is watch out when eating the cocoa nib b/c I think there is pepper mixed in there and I made the mistake of taking a bite of all of it and it was very unpleasant.
I give Wayne Gretzky winery an A+ for their environment. They have the cutest outdoor bar with patio heaters and a skating rink which would be such a fun activity to do with your family on a weekend. They also have a separate building for whisky tastings which is a very neat experience. I would definitely recommend checking it out. I’m not a huge fan of whisky but my husband is. The only whisky I absolutely love of theirs is the Canadian Cream Whisky. You can get it at the LCBO for $34.95. I would argue I like it more than Baileys!
STOP # 8: The Lakeview Wine Co.
2017 Serenity Baco Noir paired with a locally crafted dark chocolate Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine truffle.
This was probably our least favourite tasting of all. The wine had that overly alcohol taste and the ice wine truffle wasn’t anything special. I also wasn’t a fan of the environment or look of the winery. It felt like I was walking into a big warehouse and it had a very cold vibe. So if you’re trying to decide which wineries to go to this weekend safe to say you could skip this one.
STOP #9: Small Talk Vineyards
2015 ‘Uplifting’ Cabernet Merlot paired with sea salt shortbread dipped in dark chocolate.
I absolutely loved the environment at this vineyard! They have such fun colours and sayings all over the place. They also have my favourite cider! Its an apple cider w/ pinot noir and it’s delicious! You can find it here. Another fun thing they had going on was an Etsy market which I thought was so cool! What a concept! Shopping while sipping wine…I think they’re on to something 😉
As for the pairing the wine was okay. Once again I find Niagara reds quite weak and not as full bodied and rich as wines from California for example. However, the shortbread was excellent! Loved the sea salt flavour and of course it was dipped in chocolate. It was delicious!
STOP # 10: Palatine Hills Estate Winery
2017 ‘1812’ Red paired with cocoa Beef Bourguignon. Beef slowly braised in our famous 1812 Red with bacon, mushrooms, onions and rich unsweetened chocolate.
This winery was one of our favourites! The wine pairing was on point. The red was delicious and more flavour than some of the other wines we had tried and the beef bourguignon was so delicious and tender. Truly a perfect pairing. What topped it off was that they were also giving complementary tastings if you had bought a pass so that was a bonus!
STOP # 11: Konzelmann Estate Winery
2018 Merlot Reserve paired with a decadent, melt in your mouth 70% dark chocolate shortbread cookie created by Cafe Fifty-Four.
The wine was good and had good flavour but the cookie wasn’t that great. The sea salt shortbread at Small Talk was much better. This cookie was just too dry and simple.
If you ever do a tasting at Konzelmann ask for Donna! She was fantastic! So knowledgeable and fun! She gave us a blind tasting based on our favourite types of wine and had us guess what it was. It was so fun! They have an excelled sparkling Riesling you should try if you are ever there!
STOP # 12: Strewn Winery
2018 Strewn Robust Rose paired with a chocolate cheesecake-filled strawberry garnished with chocolate wafer crumbs.
Not going to lie this pairing didn’t wow me. The Rose was pretty weak and the chocolate cheesecake filling in the strawberry tasted more like a mousse than cheesecake. Probably wasn’t the best pairing to end with but overall we had a fantastic fun-filled day!
DAY 2: SUNDAY
STOP # 13: The Hare Wine Co.
2018 Jack Rabbit Red Cabernet Sauvignon paired with seared flank steak topped with Jack Rabbit Red jelly, dark chocolate dust and Maldon sea salt.
This was probably #1 of all 24. The Cab Sauv was so smooth and flavourful and with flank steak how can you go wrong? It was a perfect/classic pairing. The meat was perfectly cooked with a beautiful pink center. It’s a relatively new winery and I have been once before this and have never been disappointed with the results.
STOP # 14: Southbrook Vineyards
Canadian Framboise paired with chocolate bread pudding, drizzled with chocolate/framboise sauce.
This was another great pairing. The Framboise was delicious and sweet and paired so well with the chocolate bread pudding which was to die for! We were pleasantly surprised.
STOP # 15: Niagara College Teaching Winery
2018 Balance Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon infused vegan brownie bites with dark chocolate curl from our very own Benchmark Restaurant.
The wine was pretty good but the brownie was not superb. I feel like you could really tell it was vegan. It tasted dry and much more cakier than we expected a brownie to taste. However, it was a place we would never think of going for a tasting and was a unique experience.
STOP # 16: Château des Charmes
2017 Atelier Red, Estate Grown & Bottled paired with dark chocolate tart topped with Atelier Red and sour cherry jelly with smoked sea salt.
Chateau des Charmes is always a lovely experience. It’s a very beautiful and classy venue. The wine was good but once again didn’t wow me. But the tart was fantastic! Melt in your mouth sweet and salty goodness!
STOP # 17: Queenston Mile Vineyard
2018 Mile High Sparkling Rosé paired with Chef Rossco’s White Chocolate and Strawberry Trifle. Miles of white fluffy cream, fresh custard, homemade sponge cake and strawberries.
The trifle and sparkling rose was the most delightful pairing. The venue is beautiful and bright with nice large floor to ceiling windows. The trifle was nice and light and I loved that it was white chocolate vs. regular. The rose was perfection! Definitely check out this winery!
STOP # 18: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
2018 Sand & Gravel Cabernet Franc paired with a Chocolate dipped pretzel with mole spice.
The Cabernet Franc was mediocre and the most interesting thing about the pretzel was the mole spice. It was a fun twist on the chocolate dipped pretzel. It’s a quaint winery with an old school house vibe. There was also a cute farm style deli/shop in the back.
STOP # 19: Riverview Cellars Estate Winery
2019 Gamay Nouveau paired with chocolate infused BBQ pulled pork on a bao bun.
The winery ambiance isn’t anything to rave about but the BBQ pulled pork on a bun was! Definitely one of my most favourite food pairings. The wine was good with it. I would recommend this winery mainly for the food pairing.
STOP # 20: Inniskillin Wines
2018 Discovery Series P3 (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir blend) paired with passion fruit tart with lime and white chocolate.
Inniskillin is always a fun experience. However, it also feels very commercialized to me. The pairing was delicious so I’ll give them that. The P3 was a bit acidic for my liking but the passion fruit tart was to die for.
STOP # 21: Marynissen Estates Winery
2016 Cabernet Merlot paired with a duo of dueling doughnuts; one filled with a raspberry jam and drizzled lightly with white chocolate, the other with chocolate creme dusted with cocoa powder.
This wine pairing was highly underwhelming. I was pretty excited for the raspberry jam doughnut but it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I don’t know if both doughnuts were stale or what. The doughnuts were average at best and so was the wine.
STOP # 22: Reif Estate Winery
2016 Estate Bottled Semillon paired with a mini ravioli filled with white chocolate and parsnip in a brown butter truffle sauce.
This one was another tasting I was super excited about but the ravioli wasn’t as flavourful as I would’ve hoped and also not warm enough. However, I truly loved the wine. The Semillon was a nice rich white and I really enjoyed it! Also, Reif is always a fun experience. The building and interior is cool and it is always bumping with people.
STOP # 23: Lailey Winery Ltd.
2016 Amabilis paired with dark chocolate cherry cinnamon bark.
The wine and chocolate was both very good! I would’ve bought the chocolate if I could. I really enjoyed it. The winery was very simple looking on the inside and there was a lot of white.
STOP # 24: Peller Estates Winery
2017 Late Harvest Vidal paired with a mouthwatering chocolate brownie drizzled in Late Harvest Vidal Caramel.
Our last stop was once again one of the most disappointing. They ran out of the brownie and started serving chocolate cake which tasted like boxed mix. The Vidal was well…a Vidal. I also find Peller extremely commercialized and busy. So it wasn’t a favourite but once again a very successful and fun day!
Overall, everyone really enjoyed the tastings! It’s so fun to try different wines and foods. The duck confit particularly opened my eyes to the wealth and opportunities of food combinations. We had so much fun in fact, we decided to go to Sip n Sizzle in May. I’m sure you’ll see it on the blog 😉 Anyways, I hope this is helpful for anyone tasting this weekend and I hope lots of you will consider going in May, November or next year! ❤