Sunday, 1 February 2015

Embracing the Season with iYellow's 2015 Icewine Tour

The lovely folks at the iYellow Wine Club were kind enough to extend to me an invitation for their 2015 Icewine Tour. I was introduced to iYellow by their wine blogger and icewine man Tran Bronstein who I met rather serendipitously.

The iYellow Wine Club, founded by Angela Aiello (ha, get it?) has a mission to tear away the stuffy facade of wine culture and foster a community of young and eager to learn vinophiles. iYellow is about making wine education accessible to a new generation. Wine with iYellow is social and fun. The iYellow Wine Club is a place where you can taste wines from all over the world, learn about the wines you love and meet other wine lovers! The wine club plans regular events, tours and wine school classes for you to attend a la carte. Last weekend iYellow took me and a friend under their wing and gave us an education in wine that we are sure not to forget.

Check out my last tour with iYellow here

Did you know that Canada is the biggest icewine maker in the world? But you'd be wrong to think we were the first. Whether you believe it was first created by the Germans in the 1800's, or the ancient Romans in the Valle Di Dusa icewine has a long history. However, it isn't the first known fermented beverage in the world. That title belongs to mead.

Overlooking Rosewood Estates. Coat by Calvin Klein, sweater by Vera Moda, dress by Forever 21, necklace by J.Crew. 
Hellen strikes a pose! 

Rosewood Estates Winery is Niagara's first winery-meadery. The winery, founded by Eugene & Renata Roman in 2000, begun out of a passion and respect for locally produced wines. Rosewood vineyards are sustainably farmed and together the team has over 75 years of beekeeping experience.

At Rosewood we played a little game called "guess the mead". Mead is created from fermented honey, yeast and water. It was used in sacramental ceremonies and given to newlyweds by the Celts as a sign of good luck. The couple was meant to keep the gifted bottle of mead for a lunar month (remember, this way predates the Gregorian calendar) before they could taste its sweetness. Our term "Honeymoondates back to this practice.

We tasted three wines, two strikingly different rieslings and an unmistakable mead with flowery undertones which was surprisingly refreshing (I guess I expected it to be a little more syrupy). Mead, I was informed, can be anywhere from very dry to very sweet, and you can create what's called a pyment if you ferment your mead with grapes.
Tran Bronstein of iYellow Wine Club and L.K. Britton at Rosewood Estates Winery

Rosewood is a stop you have to make in Niagara. It's a one-of-a-kind experience and they winery takes you on a trip back in time with their old-school practices.

Our next stop took us to Pillitteri Estates Winery. Pillitteri is unique in that the vineyard is family owned but with the means to take the adventurous route with their wines. It seems that Gary Pillitteri has a strong moral obligation to being told he can't do something. It's a challenge - say it can't be done and he will do it.

As Niagara wines began to kick off Pillitteri planted his first vineyard - an offshoot of an already bustling fruit farm. in 1988 he decided to experiment by making a batch of Vidal icewine. His family pushed him to sell his product but it wasn't until his kids stole a bottle and entered it into a wine competition where it won the gold medal that the idea to open a winery solidified for Pillitteri.

Award winning 1988 Vidal Icewine
We toured their cellar and were given an insight into the Pillitteri's lucky number 23. 23 stairs led down to the cellar, 23 settings at the long harvest table and 23 industrial-looking chairs hung from the walls made from the same steel as their wine barrels.  We tasted a delicious flight of icewines. From light and lemony to full and spicy. My favourite by far was their 2007 Sticky Beek, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Sangiovese. I had to pull myself away from buying the last bottle!

We had lunch in the beautiful cellar of Inniskillin, the grandfather of Niagara vineyards. Their cellar is dimly lit and atmospheric with a hint of Winterfell. They are pioneers in the wine industry. Inniskillin was the first winery to make icewine from Niagara grapes and there is nothing quite like their Cabernet Franc 2008 Icewine, though they are perhaps best known for their Vidal series.

As can be expected, iYellow had one more surprise up their sleeve, but rather than continue our education in icewine we got a first rate degree in beer! We rolled up to Oast House Brewers, a brand new brewery in Niagara and their drafts were a welcome departure from our sweet treats. After indulging in a couple tasty beers from their Farmhouse Ale Collection we took to the ping pong table and had a doubles match! A great ending to a really lovely trip.

Oast House Brewers Farmhouse Ale Collection

With Valentines around the corner iYellow is hosting a special V-day wine tasting. If you're still undecided about what to do I highly recommend you check out iYellow's I Love South Africa tasting Saturday the 14th where you can enjoy 15+ South African wines. Plus there's a chance to win a trip for two to South Africa! Tickets are limited so grab them while you can.

xo L.K.