Niagara Icewine Festival 2017 – tasting at the Gala

"... our primary mission was to taste the 52 icewines being presented at the Friday night gala ..."

On Friday January 13, I traveled down to Niagara Falls with wine writing colleagues Tony Aspler and Michael Vaughn, to attend the 2017 Xerox Icewine Gala courtesy of Wine Country Ontario. Although we managed to add in two excellent winery tastings, the first at Trius on the Friday, and the second at Cave Springs on Saturday (with notes to follow in the next few days), our primary mission was to taste the 52 icewines being presented at the Friday night gala.

Our approach was to divide and conquer, with each of us covering about one third of the field.  My task was to sample the viniferous (non-Vidal) white icewines, while Tony took the Vidals and Michael took the reds.

It wasn’t until I started counting that I realized I’d taken the lightest load. Of the 52 wines, 20 were reds (mostly Cabernet Franc), with 18 Vidals. That left 14 wines, of which 10 were Riesling, one was a Chardonnay and one was a blend of Vidal, Riesling and Chardonnay, while two others were not true icewines. One was a blend of Riesling icewine and Riesling table wine, while the other was a late harvest Pinot Gris. Of course I filled in my dance card with other icewines, mostly reds, although I ground to a halt by the time I reached 20. All that sugar takes its toll on the teeth and the palate!

A party atmosphere at the Gala

While the Gala atmosphere is not the greatest environment for serious tasting, the event itself was a great success.  The ice sculptures were fun, the ambiance was pleasant, the wines were excellent, the food was very good, the music was appreciated by the dancers, but was not too loud for some conversation, and the dance floor was busy. All in all, a great night!

I encourage you to check out Tony’s blog here for his summary of the visit, and towards the bottom of the post he presents a list of his, Michael’s and my top icewines in our different categories. Here I want to present brief notes on seven of my top selections.

What was I looking for in my explorations? With all that sugar, for me the primary characteristic has to be great acidity to balance the sugar and add life to the wine. Then when I taste beyond the Vidals, which I think of as Ontario’s “classic” icewine, I look for some varietal character. And when the wines are youthful as most of these were, I prize purity and clarity of fruit aromas and flavours.


Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine, Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard 2014

Vintages #0 • $65.00 • 375ml. • WD Score 94/100
The bright and slightly lifted nose shows white flowers and complex fruit, suggesting lemons, red apples, apricot, mango, peach and pineapple. Brisk acidity enlivens the palate, where the fruit is complemented by an undertone of sponge toffee complexity. Luscious but still vibrant, with good Riesling character. 9.5% alcohol, 248 g/l residual sugar.
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • • Share Review


Tawse Riesling Icewine 2013

Vintages #204990 • $35.90 • 200ml. • WD Score 93/100
This is a personal favourite. Lively lime and lemon aromas lead the way, backed by green apple, melon and peach, and a hint of ginger. The palate is surprisingly tart and lively, the lime and lemon elements pop on the palate, and the finish is zingy and juicy, with a decided mineral element, rare for icewine. This so much reflects the Tawse sensibility, rather than the icewine mainstream. 10% alcohol, an amazing 14.6 g/l total acidity according to the website, and 220 g/l of residual sugar. But beware, it is way too easy to quaff!
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Riverview Cellars Riesling Icewine 2015

Vintages #0 • $70.05 • 375ml. • WD Score 93/100
Spicy cinnamon and red apple aromas are complemented by notes of lemon and apricot. The palate is fresh and crisp with fine acidity balancing the residual sugar. The fruit notes are nicely etched on the palate, and the finish is mouthwatering and lengthy. 11% alcohol and 203 g/l of residual sugar. Finely detailed and balanced.
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • • Share Review


Colaneri Riesling Icewine 2013

Vintages #0 • $69.95 • 375ml. • WD Score 93/100
Vibrant red apple, lemon, orange, melon and peach aromas are backed by a note of sponge toffee. High acidity brightens the luscious palate, the fruit is slightly candied, and the finish is juicy. 9.2% alcohol, 250 g/l of residual sugar.
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • • Share Review


Inniskillin Chardonnay Icewine 2015

Vintages #0 • $69.95 • 375ml. • WD Score 91/100
While the nose is fairly neutral, showing just hints of lemon, yellow apple, melon and peach, the fruit brightens and focuses more clearly on the palate. Juicy acidity balances the sweetness, which takes on a honeyed and waxy character. Rich and satisfying.
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • • Share Review


Pillitteri Estate Reserve Riesling Icewine 2013

Vintages #0 • $35.00 • 200ml. • WD Score 91/100
There is some good Riesling character on the nose, which is lightly floral, with aromas of red apple, lemon, orange and peach. The palate is rich and luscious, but with enough acidity to keep it lively and bright. 10.5% alcohol and 223 g/l residual sugar.
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • • Share Review


Fielding Estate Riesling Icewine 2012

Vintages #0 • $33.05 • 200ml. • WD Score 90/100
Interesting cinnamon and spice notes complement aromas of red apple, lemon, orange and peach. The palate is honeyed and spicy, with a bright, mouth-watering finish. 10.5% alcohol, 210 g/l residual sugar, 11 g/l total acidity. Sadly there are just a few bottles left of this offering.
Tasted Jan 13, 2017 • • • Share Review




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