This was a toss up between Harbour Estates and Featherstone … then again it depends on whether you wanted sweet or savoury. Harbour Estates went for the sweet tooth in all of us by offering shortbread cookies, sugar cookies with a dollop of icewine jelly, chocolate chip caramel squares, cashew-chocolate toffee brittle and a fabulous phyllo wrapped brie with Riesling icewine jelly melted in the middle – all homemade by their 23 year old daughter. While across town, Featherstone went the more savoury food and wine pairing route. Now maybe they have a bit of an unfair advantage because a) they hold an open house at this time of year annually and b) owner Louise Engel used to own a gourmet food store in Guelph (see where I am going with this) – and no offense to Louise, but you do have a few more years at it than the 23 year old … not by much. She served Orange-Curry Chicken on a deep fried wonton; Roast-Beef with Dijon-horseradish mayo; Blue Cheese Shortbread topped with a roasted walnut; fruit with mango yogurt dip, marinated olives; and baked brie in puff pastry with walnuts cranberries and pepper berry blast (is your mouth watering yet?) – all concocted and homemade by Louise, and her staff, and paired with a variety of Featherstone wines. Thankfully I skipped lunch, but my problem was I stopped at Harbour Estates first – next year I’ll reverse the order and save some room for dessert.
Stoney Ridge got into the holiday spirit by pairing up wines with various dips, crackers, breads and fondue from their downstairs in-house cheese shop … quite nice. While Flat Rock served icewine laced hot chocolate – tasty and good for a cold day … but maybe a nibbly would have been in order to pair with it, a shortbread would have been ideal.
Creekside brought you down into their barrel cellar for a sampling of a wine in progress … a great idea, but not exactly what you’re looking for this time of year at a holiday “open house”. Angels Gate tasted their just released robust Angels III Meritage blend with a piece of dark chocolate … again a good start, but for the season you’d expect more. It’s a good start and definitely something to build on for next year.
Better Luck Next Year:
4 wineries proved very disappointing during their “open house”: Fielding, Birchwood, Lakeview and Mountain Road … all four offered nothing of any substance to visitors walking through the door. Mulled wine and discounts on stemware are not really what the season’s about, is it? Though in fairness to Mountain Road they were getting ready for their 4th Anniversary celebration on the Sunday, I guess you can’t party every day no matter what Kiss says.
Speaking of Next Year:
Now I fully admit I did not get to every winery this year – the four I missed were: EastDell, Legends, Vineland (closed for a private function), and Willow Heights. I’ll be there next year to check you guys out – hopefully you now know what to do.
All-in-all an interesting if uneven event … but once they find their feet this will be another great party weekend in Wine Country. Hold it again next year 20 Valley – because if you build it, they will come.