Icewine Festival, Inniskillin Winery

In an ongoing exploration of food and Icewine experiences in Niagara, we visited Inniskillin winery to chat with Executive Chef David Penny about what he has in store for the Icewine Festival.

Inniskillin was founded in 1975 by Karl J. Kaiser and Donald J.P. Ziraldo, the two setting out to raise the bar for Ontario wines and viticulture. You can read more about Inniskillin’s history here. Here’s an excerpt.

It’s pure Niagara legend: The tale of the unlikely odd couple that went on to become two of the founding fathers of Canadian Wine. Karl Kaiser, the studious, Austrian-born chemist, and Donald Ziraldo, the young Italian Canadian agriculture graduate, both grew up with wine at the family dinner table. While tasting Ontario Wines in the early 70’s, they realized a gap existed in the premium market segment. They seized the opportunity to fill that gap and set out to break new ground to produce premium varietal wines from premium grapes grown in the Niagara Peninsula. Both Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo believed their future in the wine business was dependent on using the Vitis vinifera grapes, the preferred family of grapes used to produce the fine wines in the great wine regions of the world. When sourcing these limited grapes became a challenge in the early 70’s, Ziraldo took the lead and planted a vinifera vineyard which included Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay and formed the quality base for Kaiser to work with.

On July 31, 1975, Inniskillin Wines incorporated and its founders Karl J. Kaiser and Donald J.P. Ziraldo were granted the first winery license in Ontario, Canada since prohibition.

Kaiser and Ziraldo tirelessly tested the new ground of Niagara with better vines and superior winemaking techniques, grafting old world wisdom in the new world terroir. An early mission statement captured this spirit — “Inniskillin: Not so much bound by tradition as inspired by it”. The first Inniskillin winery was far from glamourous — a converted packing shed at the Ziraldo family nursery — but the wines were excellent! Ziraldo and Kaiser received much attention for their quality wines. Then in 1984, Kaiser made the most of the extreme Canadian winter to produce his first Icewine — a pivotal point for Inniskillin. The world began to take notice.

Over the years, Inniskillin has created countless award-winning wines and Icewines.  Executive chef David Penny continually strives to create food & wine pairings at Inniskillin that compliment and contrast the various of complexities of Icewine. Both pairings that were presented by Chef Penny illustrated the versatility of Icewines as food companions. I was particularly fond of how well the sparkling Icewine went with the oysters.

Here is a list of upcoming events at the winery during the festival. Drop in and try out the pairings.

Icewine Discovery Tour
January 15-16, 22-23 & 29-30
The tour begins at The Piazza, with an Ice Glass of Sparkling Vidal Icewine. In the Icewine Vineyard you will enjoy our Vidal Icewine with a frozen Vidal grape. In the Founders' Hall you will sample Canadian Oak Aged Riesling Icewine, then enjoy Chardonnay Icewine in the Brae Burn Barn. You will finish your experience with Cabernet Franc Icewine on the Vineyard Patio. $30 per person

Icewine Festival Discovery Pass
January 15-16, 22-23, 29-30
Enjoy our VQA Riesling Icewine paired with a Chevre and Niagara pear tart with toasted hazenuts created by our Estate Chef David Penny. No charge for Discovery Pass holders; $10 per person for non Discovery Pass holders.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village
January 22, 2011 to January 23, 2011     
Location: Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
An Unforgettable Event to Stimulate All the Senses
The snow-covered streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake sparkle during the "Main Event" of the Icewine Festival. Located on stunning historic Queen Street, the 25 Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake pour liquid gold all weekend long. We have paired Icewine with the swinging sounds of Canadian Jazz and the town's finest restaurants will be serving up Icewine-inspired culinary pairings to delight the palate. Admission is free.

Icewine Cocktail Competition
January 22, 2011
Location: Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Baby, It's Cold Outside, but Queen Street is Burnin' Up!
Savour the spoils of Wine Country's hottest Icewine Mixologists competing to become Niagara-on-the-Lake's foremost Icewine Cocktail Creator. Try each Icewine Cocktail and sample food pairings served up by local restaurants. Pick your favourite Icewine Cocktail from the bunch while our celebrity guest host awards one competitor with the top honours.

Written by Suresh Doss

Suresh Doss

Suresh Doss is the publisher of and Rickshawmag. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America. Suresh also runs the newly launched Zagat Toronto site.

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