Pink Ice Wine & Chocolate
What Could Be Better for Wine Blogging Wednesday?
Almost six years ago I was stuck in Vancouver, Canada, for three weeks waiting for the visa that would allow me to come and work in the United States. I was staying, by myself, in a hotel at the bottom of Granville Street and because I had no cooking facilities, I was forced to eat out solo in cafes and sushi bars most of the time. Don't play those violins too loudly, though, I still had British pounds in my pocket back then and the exchange rate was well and truly in my favour. Everything I bought at that time, I paid peanuts for.
One lunchtime, when I was beginning to tire of living from a suitcase mainly filled with snowboarding gear, I decided to treat myself to lunch at a fancy restaurant that I sadly don't remember the name of any more. I felt a little bit nervous about dining alone so I elected to sit at the bar where I could see the chefs and kindly they chattered to me as they worked. I don't remember anything else about that meal except for the dessert wine I sipped on at the end of my meal. It was a Canadian Inniskillin Ice Wine.
Originally developed in the cool wine regions of Germany in the mid-1700s, Icewine is ideally suited to the Niagara peninsula and the Okanagan Valley's climatic conditions. Grapes are left on the vine well into the winter months. The resulting freezing and thawing of the grapes dehydrates the fruit, and concentrates the sugars, acids, and extracts in the berries, thereby intensifying the flavours and adding complexity to the wine made from it.
Ice wine is almost as sweet as Shuna, the pastry chef who writes so poetically over at Eggbeater and who recently invited me to a tasting of some amazing chocolates she had brought back from Europe.
There are few wines that pair exceptionally well with chocolate. Some people like port, others prefer Banyuls. But what about a $79.99 half bottle of 2004 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine? The guys at K&L Wines assured me it couldn't be bettered...
There is nothing quite like this glowing pink dessert sipper. Nose detects stewed red berries with additional notes of cocoa and tobacco. Intense initial burst of jammy fruit finishes with a complex array of fruit, pepper and spice. K & L Wines
I should hope "there is nothing like" this wine at that price. We put it to the test. At first I thought the .375ml bottle wouldn't really be enough to satiate the thirst of several adventurous food lovers at the tasting. But our gracious hosts pulled out the perfect set of eight elegant liqueur glasses which served to allow us each not one, but two glasses to sip on as we tried itty bitty little tasters of some of the world's finest chocolates.
Salmon pink strawberry hues, raisin, caramel overtones without too much syrup, light and exceptional with the chocolate. Also great on the tongue, giving forth a burst of acidity when paired with a triple creme cheese. Sam Breach
And the chocolate? What a treat to be able to taste and compare so many chocolates in one sitting. Shuna described the Amedei, La Tavoletta, from Tuscany as "probably the best milk chocolate in the world", made only from the creme de la creme of dairy products. However, being more of a dark chocolate freak, I preferred some of the other samplings. Not, necessarily the Amedei Cedar Wood which I think I described as "like eating an antique shop". My absolute favourite bar was Pierre Hermé's Azur with yuzu and grapefruit confit. Citrus and chocolate, an Hermé signature pairing, is such an alluring match I can hardly imagine wasting my time on chocolate that contains anything else. But as you all know, both nuts and caramel also make trusted chocolate bed fellows which is why I had trouble resisting the absolutement chocolat caramel and no problem helping myself to seconds of Hermé's Mathilda - with an almond praline and a hint of lemon zest. My final mention goes to Sichuan Pepper Pave - which paired so beautifully with the sweet Cabernet Franc.
If you live in the Bay Area, you might be pleased to learn that Shuna is putting on some more of her excellent cooking classes over the next couple of months covering Pie Dough, Caramel and Custard. You can read more details about how to sign up here.
Today's post was written on honour of Wine Blogging Wednesday, an online community blogging event started by Lenndevours and this month, on the subject of Ice Wines, hosted by The Kitchen Chick.