Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wine, cheese and chocolate

On Saturday I took the train west to the Burlington area to visit my friends Cathy and Jason. Cathy and I had plans to visit a couple of our favourite Niagara Peninsula wineries: Fielding Estate and Peninsula Ridge. It was perfect timing, really, as my stocks were running quite low at home.

Before heading to Peninsula Ridge we made a quick detour to the Upper Canada Cheese Company, where we sampled the two cheeses they make from Guernsey cow milk: the Comfort Cream, a Brie-like cheese with a white, bloomy rind, and their Niagara Gold, more akin to Oka. It was firmer in texture and had a nuttier flavour. I snapped a couple photos of the Niagara Gold cheese rounds piled up - they age for five months before being packaged for sale. I bought a small chunk - I'm all about supporting the locals!

Next we stopped at Peninsula Ridge, where they offer cheese tastings as well as wine tastings. Cathy and I each selected a few wines to sample, as well as six cheeses to share. For the wines, I opted to try their 2007 Riesling, their 2007 Merlot, their 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, and their 2002 Cabernet Franc Reserve. Of those four I found I liked both the Merlot (surprisingly - I don't usually like Merlot) and the Cab Sauv. But at $39.95 the Cab was a bit out of my price range so I opted for a bottle of the Merlot at $14.75.

As for the cheeses, they were divine: among our selections were an aged Chevre from Quebec, an ale-infused cow's milk cheese from Ireland, and a creamy blue cheese from France. I immediately loved the Quebec Chevre and bought a good-sized piece. Cathy bought some of the Chevre as well, along with a small sample of an English cheddar called Lincolnshire Poacher. She also picked up a bottle of their 2004 Cabernet, which I didn't sample.

Our last stop was Fielding Estate, my favourite winery in the area and Cathy's too. Each year in the spring we go to the Fielding Insider Shop event where they invite regulars to try their new wines before they're available for sale in the retail store. On Saturday when we visited they were offering a special Valentine's Day feature - wine and chocolate pairings. Why not? First we tried a 2006 Sparkling Riesling paired with a milk chocolate heart. The Sparkling Riesling was lovely - dry, closer to a Champagne than most sparkling wines. The chocolate was very nice too - provided by David's.

Second, we had the 2005 Meritage with a dark chocolate heart. This pairing was fantastic. The dark chocolate really brought out the cherry undertones in the wine.

I didn't end up buying either of those, however. I went with two bottles of my tried and true, the 2007 Fireside Red (a Baco Noir). I also grabbed a bottle of their Dry Riesling, made a few years back by their previous winemaker Ray Cornell. They have a new winemaker now, Richie Roberts, and I had the chance to speak with him briefly at last year's Insider event. He's young, but obviously passionate about the business of making good wine. I hope to interview him at this year's event for

After all the sipping and noshing, Cathy and I headed back to her place where she, Jason and I hung out, drank more wine, and eventually ordered pizza for dinner. It surprises me how well wine can go with pizza!

All in all, a great day with friends and some of my favourite culinary treats!



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