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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Inniskillin Icewine A Great Change Of Pace For Dessert

Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2017, Canada
Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2017, Canada

Cost: $49-51, 84-86

So the dinner dishes are all washed and put away, the children are in bed. And you are sitting on the couch, staring at the fire, dreaming about the year ahead.

What’s your drink of choice?

Many people would say port, and it’s difficult to argue with a good port. But there is a another alternative: icewine.

If you have never had an icewine, you owe it to yourself to try one. Icewines have been growing in popularity because they generally have a refreshing sweetness balanced by a crisp acidity. This all occurs naturally, with no sugar added.

Some of the most popular and highly-rated icewines come from Inniskillin, a Canadian winery with operations in British Columbia and the Niagara Peninsula. I recently tried two of their icewines, and while they are a bit pricey, they are certainly worth the splurge.

My wife Teri and I both liked the Inniskillin 2017 Cabernet Franc Icewine ($84-86) best. It is a mouthwatering burst of fruit flavor, full of strawberry, prune and cherry with hints of fresh cream. Despite the natural sweetness it has a surprisingly dry finish. It is a rich, decadent wine, perfect for sipping after dinner, or with dessert.

The light red color comes from pressing only as there is no skin contact during fermentation.  The earlier the grapes are harvested, the darker the color and the deeper the flavors.

The juice is cold settled for seven days before it is inoculated with yeast and slowly cool fermented for three weeks. The wine is then filtered and transferred to a stainless steel tank before it is bottled.

The Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2017 ($49-51) was nearly as good, with rich flavors of peach and citrus, balanced by fresh acidity. The only possible negative was it might have been a touch too sweet for our tastes, but it is still an exceptional wine.

Vidal is the premier icewine grape of Ontario, a hybrid (ugni blanc and seibel) that has a thick skin suitable for harvesting late in the season. It is the grape grown most for icewine in Ontario.  Being a green grape, it produces white-colored wine.

It’s natural acidity gives great structure to the lusciousness of its tropical aromas and flavors of mango, peach and citrus.  After harvest the frozen grapes are pressed and the juice is cold settled for six days. It is then racked, inoculated with yeast and fermented at 61 degrees for three weeks.

Like nearly all icewine, these wines come in 375 ml. botles, half the size of normal bottles. But the wine is so concentrated, one bottle will easily handle eight people for dessert or after dinner. Both of these wines come in at between 9 and 10 percent alcohol, so you don’t have to worry about drinking too much.

Icewine began in Germany and northern Europe, but it is produced in many countries, including the United States. The Finger Lakes region of New York has some great examples. It is made from grapes left on the vines well into winter, gaining intensity and concentration of flavors. Each grape freezes, thaws and loses some of its water, but not its sugar.

In has become wildly popular in Canada, where the harvest cannot begin until the temperature drops to 17 degrees for a sustained period of time. Canada’s quality control group, the VQA, also prohibits artificial freezing.

Some years the harvest has begun as early as December 2, and as late as March 5. This clearly takes patience on the part of the growers. And because the lowest temperatures usually come at night, they have to be prepared to harvest the frozen clusters at any hour.

Winery: Inniskillin Wines is Canada’s original estate winery, founded in 1974 when Donald Ziraldo planted riesling, chardonnay and gamay grapes on the Niagara Peninsula. The grapes were first harvested in 1977.

Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser received the first winery license in Canada since 1929. The original winery site was Ziraldo Nurseries. It had been a farm owned by Colonel Cooper in the 1800s and was named for his Irish Regiment, the Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Later the winery moved to the Brae Burn Estate, which is Gaelic for “hill stream.” The stream refers to the Niagara River.

The first icewine was harvested in 1984, and the icewine has won medals around the world. Winemaker Karl Kaiser actually wanted to make icewine in 1983, but birds ate all the grapes from the vines that were not covered in nets.

Inniskillin really burst onto the world stage in 1991 when its vidal icewine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vin Expo France, the highest award at that wine exhibition.

A collaboration with the Okanquen Tribe in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, brought Inniskillin to Canada’s west coast in 1994.

Major renovations 10 years ago created a new hospitality area for public and private events, with a new entrance and a remodeled Brae Burn Barn.

The architecture of the barn is thought to be inspired by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright due to his early commissions in the area.

The winery also produces many table wines at several price levels, including chardonnay, riesling, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, viognier, pinot gris, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.

Goes with: We had these treats with dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner. It made a wonderful meal even more special.

We had a traditional standing rib roast for dinner with mashed potatoes and several vegetable dishes. The cabernet blends we had with dinner were outstanding. Then we settled in to a variety of desserts: apple pie, blueberry pie, blueberry pound cake, chocolate brioche and even peanut brittle.

I had apple pie and vidal icewine and the combination was sublime. I loved the way the wine picked up the apple and sugar from the pie and didn’t overwhelm the dessert. The next night I had the cabernet franc icewine, also with apple pie, and I thought the combination was even better.

Teri especially loved the cabernet franc. She had both her icewines with lemon bundt cake, and she enjoyed them both. She and I both love port, but we enjoyed these wines as much as any port, except vintage port, which can be heavenly. The low alcohol really is a bonus.

We also liked that we didn’t have to finish the bottles. The wine will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, but I don’t think that’s an issue at our house. It will be gone in a few days.

These wines will go with just about any dessert. For the cabernet franc, the winery recommends chocolate mousse, chocolate covered strawberries and blueberry pudding with chocolate sauce. For the vidal, it recommends aged cheddar cheese, angel food caked topped with stewed pineapples and whipped cream, peach tart or baked cheese cake with a peach compote.

I think they also would be great with fresh fruit, walnuts, pecans or creme brulee.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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