Sweet Pairings

By / Magazine / July 16th, 2012 / Like

Sir Wilfrid Laurier once proclaimed that the 20th century belonged to Canada. If the worldwide popularity of Canadian Icewine is anything to go by, I’d say his assessment is bang on. I had the opportunity recently to attend a pretty extensive tasting of Ontario sweeties. I was anticipating leaving with a sugar high. Instead, I walked out the door with a pretty keen appreciation for this complex sticky. If Sue-Ann Staff, winemaker and owner of Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery in Jordan has anything to say about it, Icewine will dominate the 21st century, too. Traveling the world, she’s found that everyone wants to join in when Icewine is on the table. “It’s our strongest suit,” she says.

Ask for advice on how to match this sticky with food and you will no doubt be told that it’s actually a dessert in itself, or to at least pair it with something that’s less sweet than the wine, like apple pie. Sure, but consider this: Icewine shines when matched with savoury and spicy dishes. Ontario restaurants have latched onto a delicious new way of adding balance to any dish they create. “The key is really the [wine’s] acidity that makes it perfect for food,” says Jason Parsons, Executive Chef at Peller Estates Winery.

chef’s tips

  • Pair Icewine with strong-flavoured cheese, like Benedictine Blue. You’ll find that the saltiness of the cheese brings out the wine’s fruitiness, and the sweetness of the wine mutes a bit of the cheese’s intensity.
  • Instead of adding honey to a dressing or glaze, try a tablespoon or two of Icewine.
  • Looking for the sweet taste of fresh fruit out of season? Icewine will give your recipes a hit of citrus and summer fruits.
  • Thanks to the wine’s natural acidity, it can take the place of vinegar in vinaigrette.
  • Better yet, sip some alongside a spicy Indian dish. You’ll notice that the wine pulls out the complex flavours that underlie the heat.
  • Want to impress that special someone? Try this: Poach lobster in-shell until it’s about 90 per cent done. Discard the shell, and simmer the meat in Icewine for a few minutes.

 There are lots more Icewine-inspired tips, recipes and cocktails to be found throughout tidingsmag.com.

ricotta and tarragon mousse

Makes 2 cups

Courtesy of Executive Chef David Penny, The Great Estates of Niagara, this recipe makes a nice change to cheese and crackers. Serve with crusty bread or crackers, and sip a cool glass of Riesling Icewine.

500 ml ricotta cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tbsp 35% cream

1 tbsp tarragon, chopped

1/4 cup confit shallots (recipe follows)

 Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill and serve.


confit shallots

Makes 2 cups

16 shallots, peeled and sliced into rings

1 cup olive oil

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tbsp black pepper

4 sprigs fresh thyme

Place all ingredients in a deep sauté pan. Cover with foil and place in a 300˚F oven.

Bake for 1 hour until shallots are tender and sweet. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Shallots will last up to 2 weeks.

kir catharine

Thought Icewine was for sipping straight? Try this cocktail developed at Niagara’s Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. For a “Blushing” Kir Catharine, use a sparkling rosé instead.

3 oz Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut (substitute Champagne or sparkling wine)

1 oz Cabernet Franc Icewine

Pour over a spoon to layer.

taste this

Note: Prices are for 375 ml bottles.

Jackson-Triggs Winery Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Gewürztraminer Icewine 2007 ($64.95)

The grapes for this wine were pressed at -12°C and fermented in stainless steel, and it shows. Flavours and aromas are rich in petrol and guava with a hint of pineapple adding just the right acidity to leave you wanting more. Lovely with duck confit.

Pillitteri Estates Winery Gewürztraminer Icewine 2008 ($60)

This one stands out from the others thanks to its mouthwatering acidity, and notes of ripe peach and mango on the nose. Tastes just like lemon gelato. Pair with sponge cake.

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Riesling Icewine 2007 ($50)

This is a very pretty wine. Pale straw colour with a low alcohol of only 8.3%, there’s lots of complexity here with aromas and flavours of sweet lemon, mandarin orange and acacia honey. There are even underlying tones of mango and quince. This is a wonderfully alluring wine. Enjoy with spicy crab cakes.

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Icewine 2008 ($49.95)

Golden hued with intense flavours of raisin, pear, apple and honey, it finishes with a hint of lemon that leaves you anticipating the next sip. Cellar until 2020 or enjoy it now with panettone bread pudding served with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Coyote’s Run Estate Winery Riesling Icewine 2008 ($39.95)

Wow! This one is super citrusy with a nuance of stewed fruit on the nose. Apricot and lychee are complemented by an undertone of minerals and petrol. You will want to snack on best quality milk chocolate when sipping this one.

Inniskillin Winery Riesling Icewine 2008 ($69.95)

What strikes me about this wine is its pronounced aromas of honey and apricot jam. Those elements carry through to the tongue as well, and are balanced with fresh flavours of lemon and lime. There’s a full mouthfeel, and enough acidity here to balance it all out. Pairs perfectly with lemon meringue pie.

Henry of Pelham Estate Winery Riesling Icewine 2009 ($49.95)

I had this one with a frisée salad of candied salmon and French beans topped with a bacon and almond dressing. Notes of mineral, dried fruit and honey enhance the lovely salmon in the dish while slightly muting the bitterness of the frisée salad. Feel free to cellar this one for the next 15 years.

Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Château des Charmes Winery Riesling Icewine 2009 ($65)

Harvested December 29th, there’s just the right amount of sweetness here to bring out undertones of fresh apricot and honey in aroma and taste. It’s delicious with Icewine chicken liver pâté and onion marmalade.

Tawse Winery Riesling Icewine 2009 ($34.95)

Lovely tropical aromas are enhanced by a rich mouthfeel. That fruity sweetness is then balanced by flavours reminiscent of lemon meringue pie. Try it with sautéed scallops drizzled with a spicy chilli butter glaze.

Reif Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2005 ($56.95)

Fig, apricot and maple syrup entice the nose and the palate. The grapes that went into making this Icewine were harvested from 24-year-old vines, Reif’s oldest block. I had it with chipotle sauce spooned over a slice of slow-cooked pork shoulder.

Caroline Cellars Vidal Icewine 2007 ($25.75)

Explodes with acacia honey, pear and pineapple. Pair with a cobbler of mixed fruit.

Peller Estates Vidal Icewine 2010 ($54.85)

This latest offering from Peller can also be found in a smaller, 200 ml size priced at $30. The classic aromas of wildflower honey, apricot, orange marmalade and lemon zest carry right through to the palate. Savour it in an Icewine martini or with Icewine poached pear.

Harbour Estates Winery Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008 ($74.90)

Lovely aromas of strawberry, fig and caramel permeate right through to your taste buds. Try this one with chicken liver pâté on toast.

Hillebrand Winery Showcase Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008 ($85)

Yes, the price is steep. But, this cherry-coloured Icewine with aromas of strawberry-rhubarb pie will have you licking your lips. Drinking it is like eating a handful of ripe strawberries. It finishes with a crisp hint of red currant. Pair with black olive tapenade.

Strewn Winery Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008 ($59.95)

Cranberries, raspberries and tropical fruits on the palate complement aromas of stewed fruit and caramel. Pair with dark chocolate.

Vineland Estates Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2008 ($42)

Displays a fresh aroma of field berries on the nose. Each sip tastes of strawberry jam tempered by a hint of tart cranberry. Drink until 2023. Try it with Gorgonzola on crackers.

Stratus Vineyards Red Icewine 2010 ($39.95)

This red is actually a pretty pink, indicating that the skins spent minimal time in contact with the juice. Stratus’ Icewine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Actually, Stratus is the first winery to include Mourvèdre in a sticky. It lends just the right amount of acidity to balance out flavours of rhubarb and raspberry pie. Enjoy with a slice of black forest cake.




Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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