Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pink Ice Wine & Chocolate

What Could Be Better for Wine Blogging Wednesday?

inniskillin ice wine cabernet franc photograph picture

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.

chocolate tasting photograph picture
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.

2005 | Meeting food bloggers in London and Paris
2004 | Baklava

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Pink Ice Wine & Chocolate


  • At 8/11/06 10:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh Sam I would have loved to be at that tasting. The wine and chocolate all sound delicious.

  • At 8/11/06 10:50, Blogger snekse said…

    Love the write up. This was a great theme this month. I'm glad someone did a red ice wine because I've been wanting to try one for a while, but have heard mixed reviews about them. If you try one of their sparkling ice wines, please be sure to write about it.

    FYI - your last link to Kitchen Chick has the wrong URL.

  • At 8/11/06 12:10, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What about the diet? OK No contest it sounds a wonderful combination even to me!!

  • At 8/11/06 12:17, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    I LOVE Ice wine!

  • At 8/11/06 14:04, Anonymous Craig Hatfield said…

    The Niagara Ice Wine Festival is a great time if you're nearby in January. This will be our third annual trip up. Lots of wineries offer tastings of the wonderful stuff, usually paired with chocolate or fruit. (or fruit dipped in chocolate!) The red varietals are my favorite, but not as common as the Vidal, Seyval and Riesling grapes. All good though.

  • At 8/11/06 16:29, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    Ok but nothing could be sweeter than you, for certain!

    Many years ago I read slowly and carefully, a beautiful article on the making and harvesting of ice wine. I was bewitched and love the concept.

    Perhaps one day i shall turn it back into itself, as a sorbet, to pair chocolate cake...

  • At 9/11/06 18:06, Blogger christianne said…

    I love ice wine as well! Though I've only had it in Canada as well.

    The chocolate tasting looks delicious!

  • At 9/11/06 19:56, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That's some circle you travel in - fine chocolates and dear cab franc Icewine...I wish I had friends who do things like that. Sounds like a blast

  • At 10/11/06 01:25, Anonymous kungfoodie kat said…

    Oh Sam...I'm such a dolt! I didn't realize you'd brought the ice wine. Thanks aren't enough for the the lovely chocolate and wine you and Shuna shared with us. It was a unique wonderful evening.

    I was able to make it up to Vancouver this Summer but somehow we missed trying the ice wine (too busy drinking champagne and cardamom cocktails at Vij's I guess). Gosh I love that city.

  • At 11/11/06 07:09, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    beccy - it so was delicious!

    snekse - i have tried the sparkling ice wine but a long time ago - and I do remember rather liking it.

    mum - we only had little nibbles and tiny sips - the diet was left intact by the tasting. other things break the diet - this didn't!

    wmm - that mmakes two of us!

    craig - i guess that is why i had to pay an extra 20 bucks for the cabernet franc ice wine. I was intrigued. You must really really like it to be making your third trip.

    shuna - that sounds gooooood! But it wouldn't be very local would it now - to find frozen grapes in the Bay area sounds tricky.

    christianne - i guess its not an everyday drink.

    Brooklyn Guy - keep up the blogging - all these friends made through my blog!

    Kat - you not a dolt at all. I am glad you enjoyed it! Please tell me how to make a cardamom and champagne cocktail immediately!

  • At 11/11/06 09:49, Anonymous olivier said…

    so what sam no more points

  • At 11/11/06 14:50, Blogger Sam said…

    olivier - I thought points are all worth zero at weekends, non?

  • At 31/12/06 10:04, Anonymous Kitchen Chick said…

    Sam, thanks for particiating in WBW #27! (It's taken a while, but I'm finally revisiting everyone from WBW #27 and re-reading all the posts.)

    I'm rather fond of red ice wines and feel lucky to live driving distance from the Niagara wine region. That Sichuan Pepper Pave sounds very intriguing. I know my husband would love to try that. Do you know where it came from? Is it something that can be mail ordered?


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