By: Megan Pasche

One of the most anticipated culinary events of the year, the Annual Icewine Makers Dinner, took place March 7th at the Niagara Falls Marriott. The dinner brought together one of the areas most talented Executive Chefs, Ron Kneabone of the Terrapin Grill, and one of the areas most respected winemakers, Bruce Nicholson, of Inniskillin Niagara. Together they created a wine and food filled evening that won’t soon be forgotten.

Chef Kneabone graduated from the Culinary Institute of Canada in 1987, and has worked all across the country as well as in France. In his role as Executive Chef at Terrapin Grill, Chef Kneabone works very closely with many world-class wineries, including Inniskillin. Bruce Nicholson has been in the wine industry for almost 30 years, and is a tenured winemaker at Inniskillin Niagara. Bruce has made wine and wine making his passion: he is extremely skilled in all areas of the industry.

But back to the big event.

For $99 a couple, we got a four-course meal, each of which came with a wine pairing. The meal started off with an appetizer for which we had three choices. I went with the Baked Quebec Goat’s Cheese, which was served on beet dressed bitter greens, and it was delightful. Other options included a Roasted Winter Root Soup and a Cold Riesling Poached Atlantic Salmon. The first course was paired with a 2012 Inniskillin Niagara Select Riesling. Inniskillin has been producing wonderful Riesling for close to 40 years now.

The second course was a choice of Pinot Noir and Root Beer Braised Short Rib Martini, Bartlett Pear and Confit Duck Terrine or Double Smoked Bacon and Caramelized Onion Tart. I went with the latter, and it was complemented perfectly by the 2011 Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve that was served. This wine is actually a favourite of Bruce Nicholson’s.

The main course followed, and the options available were an Oven Roasted Striploin of Alberta Bison, 4 Cheese and Prosciutto Chicken Supreme “Cordon Bleu”, Sundried Fruit and Sourdough Stuffed Speck Quails, or Spinach and Filo Wrapped Pacific Halibut. The main course was served with a 2011 Inniskillin East/West Cabernet/Shiraz. This wine is a collaboration between Inniskillin Niagara and Inniskillin Okanagan, taking a bit of the best from both vineyards.

The final course-the dessert, was a choice of Spiced Bread Pudding, Dark Belgium Tart with Bailey’s Chantilly or a Pumpkin Crème Brulee. It was paired with a 2012 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine. This Icewine has received a variety of awards over the years and has been rated over 90 points in the Wine Spectator.

The food and wine at this event were phenomenal and the most interesting part was having the Executive Chef and the Winemaker come out and introduce each course and explain why they chose certain foods and wine and why the tastes and flavours compliment each other so well. It provided an interesting insight into the construction of a gourmet menu. And at $99 per couple, it was a great deal too.

The Niagara Falls Marriott will likely be doing more events like this one throughout the course of the year, given its great success. Space is limited for each event, so make sure to call or check out the website (www.niagarafallsmarriott.com/events) to get updates on what other food and wine events are happening in the upcoming months.