The largest and most prestigious celebration of Ontario wine is the gala event, Cuvée Grand Tasting, which, this year, celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. Here are 5 reasons to love Cuvée.
Cuvée is the best opportunity for wine enthusiasts to sample Niagara’s best wines, and to speak directly with the winemakers themselves, like this year’s Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award Winner, Albrecht Seeger; Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence Winner, Sue Ann Staff; and Winemaker of Excellence Award Winner, Angelo Pavan.
This year, I navigate through a variety of gems, including Pillitteri Estates Winery’s Gewurztraminer Riesling. This luscious elixir has tropical fruit aromas and lychee and grapefruit on the palate. The only wine that could follow it is the Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Ice Wine. This-is-luxurious. Ambrosial, it envelopes my palate with honeyed texture and notes of melon and pineapple. Jackson-Triggs Winery is also pouring their world class Entourage bubbly, Southbrook shares it’s biodynamic and organic wines, and Creekside Winery showcases the Syrah for which it is renowned. There are new wine labels like Arterra, and those from budding regions showcasing Chardonnay from Burning Kiln Winery in Lake Erie North Shore to Adamo Winery in Dufferin County. The G.Marquis Epic is aptly named. A plum-y blend of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc, it is silky, voluptuous and complex.
The Cuvée Gala also features 12 of Niagara’s top chefs. Stationed throughout the ballroom we sample, savour and pair. Just try to tear me away from the cheese and charcuterie station! Mario Pingue‘s prosciutto, delicately wrapped around bread sticks, is addictive, and necessary between sips. The selection of cheese from Ontario artisans like Monforte and Stonetown are glorious. Stonetown’s Gruyere and Appenzeller styles are rich and balanced, but their Game Changer Red and White are creamy cheeses soaked in Vineland Estates wines, while Moonshine is soaked in Stratford’s Junction 56 Distillery Moonshine. Chef Stephen Treadwell prepares delectable dishes of albacore tuna with pickled wild mushrooms, soy mayonnaise and porcini crisp; and Hob Nob Restaurant Chef Adam Rapsey pan sears citrus-cured salmon underneath pickled fennel and cucumber slaw with dill vodka pearls. We can’t forget desserts of chocolate truffle platters, and Italian ice cream!
Apres Cuvée. The after party, is an event unto itself. Live music and dancing share the floor with micro-breweries and cideries, oh, and more wine! All the ice wine and sparkling wine we can handle!
Cuvée en Route. Following the festivities, each of the participating wineries open their doors for the duration of the weekend to showcase a “Tasting Theme.” With map and passport in hand we set out on our viticultural adventure. Inniskillin’s theme is three different styles of Sauvignon Blanc: Reserve, Barrel Fermented, and a Chardonnay blend. Cave Springs features a vertical of expressive Gewurztraminer from their Beamsville Estate’s 2009, 2013 and 2015 vintages. Konzelman Estate Winery showcases a vertical of Pinot Noir—two from 2016 and a 2013 Reserve. 13th Street Winery’s theme is called “Gamay Geek Flight,” introducing us to four expressions of Gamay from different vineyards, vintages and appellations. Peller Estate Winery offeres a vertical of their estate signature series Cabernet Franc from 2012, 2013 and 2014. Peninsula Ridge pairs a horizontal of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, oaked and unoaked, with local goat cheese. Pillitteri Estate Winery displays their Canada 150 Series Late Harvest Wines for a sweet flight of 2015 Vidal Select Late Harvest, 2013 Riesling Late Harvest, and 2015 Cabernet Late Harvest. There is so much more, and always something new, exciting and different to discover on the road to Niagara!
Cuvée is organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute. All the proceeds fund scholarships while more than $18,000 support research to benefit the grape and wine industry. Another $3,700 goes to the Niagara Community Foundation, in recognition of their past stewardship of Cuvée. Researchers at CCOVI conduct ongoing work to support grape growers and wineries in an industry that generates more than $4 billion annually in revenue, tourism and job creation.
To enjoy up-and-coming wineries and restaurants, as well as the favourites we have come to know and love, celebrate the Cuvée Grand Tasting and discover Cuvée en Route at cuvee.ca. There is no better way to support the fruit of Ontario’s Oenological and Viticultural industries than to raise a glass and toast them!
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.