Wine & Food pairing, red wine and dessert tart

Niagara-on-the-lake is celebrating a month of Valentine’s with the divine pairing of chocolate and wine in their Days of Wine & Chocolate tour, which takes place each weekend (Friday-Sunday) for the month of February.

For the event, 28 local wineries will showcase one of their wines with a chocolate infused food pairing.  Each of the wineries assigned their winemakers with the task of finding the perfect wines to accompany decadent chocolate infused dishes. The scope of food pairings include both sweet and savoury dishes – from a milk chocolate Toblerone cheesecake to a candied bacon and chocolate sponge toffee and chocolate chili corn. Many of the pastries have been created by Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Willow Cakes & Pastries. The bakery will create over 50,000 chocolate-infused delicacies for the month-long event.

My companion and I hit the road and headed to Niagara-on-the-lake. Our touring passport in hand (which is valid for the entire month of February – so, if like us, you couldn’t check off all 28 wineries in one day, you can head back for more), we attempted to shoe-horn in as many wineries (and chocolate!) as we could in one afternoon.

How does one sample wine paired with chocolate? We were instructed to first cleanse our palate with a small sip of the wine then move onto a nibble of the chocolaty goodie on offer, before returning for another mouthful of wine.

Our first stop was Diamond Estates, home to 20 Bees and Lakeview Cellars, among others. Our smooth 2010 Lakeview Cellars Cab Merlot was perfectly paired with a, frankly yummy, dark chocolate cup. Diamond Estates wasn’t alone in pairing their reds with dark chocolate – a wonderful combination.

My friend and I made a conscious effort to stop by smaller, lesser known wineries to see what was on offer. A great—or depending on your liver—dangerous opportunity to sample not only their paired wine and chocolate, but other wines they produced. And this proved to be dangerous indeed! Our liberally pouring French-Canadian host at Palantine Hills had us also sample their Juliet and Romeo sparkling wines (with Vidal Icewine added for an extra kick), as well as a bold red that did a lot to change my mind about Canadian reds. We feel like we had stumbled (almost literally) upon a gem of a winery.

At Lailey (one of my favourites and I insisted it make our touring list) we agreed the extremely thoughtful pairing of their 2011 Cabernet Merlot with mocha-espresso cookies was a winner. With their knowledgeable and engaging staff, we couldn’t resist sampling some of Lailey’s other wines, including their cheekily named Redacted dessert wine that tasted just like liquid raspberry jam.

One of the most interesting stops was a visit to Sunnybook Farm Estate Winery, where we were greeted with the smell of stewed fruit. Their Pear Blossom Wine was paired with a crumbly Triple Chocolate Biscotti with Pistachios. We also sampled the winery’s popular spiced apple wine – spiked with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg; it tasted just like apple pie.

Our final stop was Trius winery, where they paired their Trius Bruit Rosé with a caramel chocolate Pop Crunch, made by Saxon Chocolates in Toronto. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the combination would make for a decadent movie night at home.

Even though the Wine and Chocolate Tour has a romantic slant, you don’t need to go with your beau to appreciate the decadent samplings. Grab your friends—or family—and make the trip to Niagara.

You can catch Days of Wine and Chocolate again next week February 22-24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $35 per person and a special Designated Driver pass is available for $25. For further information, visit www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com

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