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#FROSTYFRIDAY: Icewine Cocktails with Sue-Ann

End the week with a bang with our #FROSTYFRIDAY Icewine Cocktail video series!

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Sabayon! Fun to make, fun to say, and a perfect vehicle for Icewine

While sipping a glass of Sue-Ann's medal-winning Icewine is the best way to enjoy the wine's luscious texture and seductive complexity, Icewine is also a useful ingredient to have in your kitchen. You can serve it as a first course in the form of Sue-Ann's Icewine Eggs, or dessert in the form of Icewine Sabayon

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Boutique Wineries in Niagara That are Worth the Drive

SCORE POINTS WITH YOUR OENOPHILE FRIENDS BY TOURING THESE SMALL-BATCH WINERIES IN NIAGARA—AND BY BRINGING HOME A BOTTLE OR TWO ...

Small-batch wineries are just that: they produce limited quantities of their wines since they have smaller vineyards, lower grape yields and more compact production facilities. Niagara’s larger operations can send out 50,000 cases or more each year; boutique wineries, like the ones described below, may produce fewer than 10,000 cases—which means that if you taste a vintage you like, you’d better pick up a bottle (or several) before they run out!

 

1 Rancourt Winery is a Niagara gem. The 25-acre cottage winery prides itself on growing all of the grapes for its VQA Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Riesling under the expert guidance of winemaker Eric Pearson. 1829 Concession 4, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-905-468-2882; rancourtwinery.com

Wineries in Niagara Sue-Anne Staff

Winemaker Sue-Anne Staff’s eponymous operation is among the top small-batch wineries in Niagara

2 Viticulture is in Sue-Anne Staff’s blood: she comes from five generations of grape growers but is the first winemaker in her family, and since 2009 has helmed her own Sue-Anne Staff Estate Winery. Seventy per cent of the vines on Staff’s property are dedicated to Riesling; her offerings include interesting Viognier-Riesling and Riesling-Cabernet Franc blends. A second label, Fancy Farm Girl, debuted earlier this year as an affordable, approachable and fun alternative to Staff’s more premium offerings. 3210 Staff Ave., Jordan, 1-905-562-1719; sue-annstaff.com

3 For the last four decades, the Neufeld family has been cultivating grapes on the land that is now Palantine Hills Estate Winery. It’s actually historic soil: battles were fought here during the War of 1812, and unearthed militia artifacts have been preserved for visitors to see. 911 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-905-646-9617; palatinehillsestatewinery.com

4 Two brothers, Greg and Yannick Wertsch, are the brains behind Between the Lines Family Estate Winery, so named because it’s located between Lines 5 and 6 on Four Mile Creek Road. Try their signature Lemberger—made from a lesser-known Austrian grape—or their bestselling Vidal. 991 Four Mile Creek Rd., Niagara on-the-Lake, 1-905-262-0289;betweenthelineswinery.com

Wineries in Niagara Back 10 Cellars

The stylish tasting room at Back 10 Cellars

5 For Andrew and Christina Brooks, Back 10 Cellars has been a true labour of love. The couple’s journey towards owning their own winery began in 2002 when they bought their 10-acre farm and began growing grapes for Featherstone Estate Winery. Their very first production under their own label was their 2012 Big Reach Riesling, which won gold at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships, alongside limited vintages of Start from Scratch Chardonnay and Blood Sweat & Years Pinot Noir. 4101 King St., Beamsville, 1-905-562-3365; back10cellars.com

6 Although terroir is an oft-discussed topic among vintners and oenophiles, it’s particularly notable at Coyote’s Run. Two different types of clay soil result in distinctly different wines: the Red Paw Vineyard’s red Trafalgar clay loam helps to produce fruity and aromatic wines, while the Black Paw Vineyard, with its more common dark Toledo clay loam, generates earthy and structured blends. 485 Concession 5 Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-905-682-8310; coyotesrunwinery.com

7 Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery is not only a vineyard, it’s also a restaurant and a specialty grocery store. The farm here has been part of Norma Jean Harber’s family since 1867. Now she and her husband Blair, alongside winemaker Martin Werner, produce premium small-batch organic Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. At the restaurant, the farm-to-table ethos is quite literal: pigs are raised in a nearby pen while fresh vegetables are brought in from the grounds’ garden. And at the Canning House, visitors can pick up preserves, jams, pickles, sauces and freshly baked artisan breads. 1366 York Rd., St. Davids, 1-905-262-8463;ravinevineyard.com

—Linda Luong

Sour grapes for Ontario craft wineries Small wine makers not thrilled that plans to bring wine to grocery stores reportedly stalled by the province

Sue-Ann Staff is disappointed that she probably won’t be able to get her Fancy Farm Girl Wines – from Foxy Rosé to Flirty Bubbles – on grocery store shelves anytime soon.

The fifth-generation farmer, and first to launch a vineyard on her family’s 200-year-old estate in the heart of Niagara’s wine-growing region, says small craft wineries like hers don’t stand a chance to compete with the big players if the Ontario government backs out of plans to overhaul the retail wine system.

“I’m looking to expand my business and my vineyard and grow more grapes, but I can’t do that until I have access to bigger markets,” said Staff, who studied the science and art of winemaking at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

As reported Wednesday by The Star’s Robert Benzie, Ontarians will soon be able to buy beer in some 300 supermarkets, but the more complicated expansion of wine sales in grocery stores is going to take longer to uncork, sources say, due to complications posed by international trade agreements and other challenges.

“It’s frustrating to be left on the back burner,” says Marcel Morgenstern, director of sales for Burnt Ship Bay Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“People want access to more wines, and they should have it,” says Morgenstern, who moved to Canada from Germany 15 years ago and finds the Ontario system antiquated compared to other countries and provinces.

Both Burnt Ship Bay and Fancy Farm Girl are part of a four-month program that features select Ontario craft wines available in 62 LCBO stores priced from $13.95 to $19.95.

“Otherwise, I have to sell it straight from my kitchen on the farm,” said Staff, who produces just shy of 5,000 cases a year.

She and Morgenstern say it’s impossible to go up against the American-owned Wine Rack and the Canadian-owned Wine Shop, which have 268 supermarket kiosks and standalone stores selling Ontario and blended foreign bulk wine, including well-known brands Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin and Peller Estates. (By comparison, the giants produce about 2 million cases a year.)

Ontario wines are key economic generators, Morgenstern noted. The industry has annual sales in excess of $675 million and employs 14,000 people.

The president of the Wine Council of Ontario, a non-profit trade association that represents 100 wineries across the province, said Wednesday “it would be a shame to miss the opportunities in front of us right now.”

“Ontario’s VQA wineries have seen tremendous growth over the last decade, including through the last several years of hard economic times. We want to build on that success, and we want to grow and innovate in order to compete in our global economy,” Richard Linley said in a statement.

Ontario could see more than $1 billion in additional revenues from wine retail reforms, added Linley.

“The biggest losers out of all this are Ontario consumers,” said Staff.

About three-quarters of wine consumed in Canada comes from other countries like France and Italy, and 60 per cent of all wine consumed is red.

More on thestar.com

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