Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Niagara Wine Festival Frolics

To Konzelmann Estate Winery
Saturday morning, January 24th, was a winter wonderland when Roy, Sandie and I took off for Niagara-on-the-Lake for a visit with Konzelmann Estate Winery and the Niagara Wine Festival.
The trip up was a cool but bright one as the Sun shone with an especially brilliant glow. Anticipation of fine wine and great food whetted our appetites while a meeting with Konzelmann Manager Jansin Ozkur intrigued our intellectual curiosity about the new things happening at the winery.
We arrived early enough to watch the outdoor barbecues and food tents being set up. Inside the winery we met with very friendly staff that offered us some of the great Konzelmann red and white wines that I had grown to love ever since my first formal introduction to the winery back in the 1990's while filming the old "Wine Companions" television series. I was told that Herbert Konzelmann was away on a very deserved vacation so unfortunately I would not see him that day but Jansin Ozkur was on his way to meet us.
Jansin showed up a few minutes later and greeted us with a warm smile. His whole demeanor was that of a very competent, efficient and confident individual who knew where he came from and knew where he was going.
After giving us a brief tour of the building he took us upstairs where we filmed a couple of segments with Sandie. In those segments he discussed the new labels for the winery that he had designed as well as two new brands of wine called "Red Moose" made from an Austrian grape variety (ironically developed at the monastery "Klosterneuberg" which was visited by us in May of 2011) Zweigelt and "White Moose" from Riesling grapes. He mentioned that since the brands' conception, sales have risen sharply. The new labels were unique and modern----prominently featuring Herbert's pride and joy, his main entrance European style doors.
The wines were very approachable and delicious with the red having a floral berry bouquet with a palate of raspberry and pepper spice. The white had a citrus-lemon nose with a similar palate that included a crisp acidity. After viewing new labels and tasting some of Konzelmann's finest wines (the Cab-Merlot is outstanding), we turned our attention outside where some very nice cooking was going on.
The Wild Boar Sausage was absolutely superb with succulent game taste that imparted some mouth watering flavours. It really went well with the "Red Moose" and I would love to try it with some of Konzelmann's Cabernet/Merlot. Sandie had one of the "burgers" and Roy went for the "Pulled Pork". Barbecues were never like this and the whole atmosphere was one of relaxation and fun-----somehow we forgot it was winter and just enjoyed!
After a couple of hours at Konzelmann's we headed for the Niagara Wine Festival. N-O-T-L's main street had been turned into a massive street wine exhibit with wineries from all over Niagara showing their wares as well as some very ingenious ice carvings in the form of chairs, benches, signs and posts. Thank heaven it was cold enough to protect the delicate ice from melting. Sandie and I hammed it up by taking some "promo shots" in various spots and poses.
We also walked over to the Shaw Cafe where attended wine icon Dr. Donald Ziraldo's Equifera Icewine exhibit and tasting. The Equifera was tremendous on both nose and palate on its own but we also had a cocktail of Equifera and Vodka which sent our taste buds to new heights.
Donald introduced us to his lovely and very charming partner Victoria. Tall and slender, she gave one the impression of being a model. Her good looks clinched it!
We spent the better part of an hour at the Shaw Cafe before bidding our farewell. Then off we went to our favourite haunt-----the Olde Angel Inn.
The Olde Angel Inn
The Inn as mentioned in previous blogs is the oldest functioning inn within Ontario. Built in the late 18th Century (1789) and later burned and rebuilt (1816), the Inn is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Captain Colin Swazye----a British soldier killed by invading American forces in 1812. he was unlucky enough to have been hiding in a barrel in the Inn's cellar when soldiers bayoneted it thus killing him. His ghost has appeared, pulling some mischievous pranks of reluctant guests and staff.
We had the Olde Angel's prime dish, "Fish and Chips" and I had a great visit with Jean, the Inn's public relations contact. The food was its usual top quality and the coffee just as much so. We ate and visited and met some of the local patrons. To our surprise and delight Jansin Ozkur dropped in for a bite also.
We took one more round of the festival and then it was time to go back to the GTA. We left feeling that much was accomplished that day and headed back home very satisfied!