By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — If one weekend of food and wine pairings is a good thing, two weekends of food and wine pairings must be even better.
For the first time, the Taste of the Trail event, which takes place Friday through April 6 and April 11 to 13 on the Niagara Wine Trail, will be split into two weekends, with half the trail’s wineries taking part the first weekend and half the second, said Elizabeth Maute, wine trail coordinator.
“You can only hit five or six wineries (at a time) and we have 20,” she said. “You can do one chunk of wineries one weekend and if you have time, the next week you can do the other chunk.”
One of the purposes of Taste of the Trail, Maute said, is to challenge people to think about wine in a new way, such as how it interacts as food items.
“People don’t necessarily see wine as a food item,” she said, “but they can pair a wine with a food and it can completely change the wine ... or the food. That’s one of the reason we like to do it, trying to challenge people to incorporate wine into their daily food.
“That’s not just for dinner, either. We have wineries with pairings good for a light snack, an appetizer or dessert. It’s kind of fun.”
The first weekend will include BlackBird Cider Works in Barker; Black Willow Winery and Schulze Vineyards in Burt; Chateau Niagara Winery in Newfane; Lake Ontario Winery in Hilton; Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina; Schwenk Wine Cellars in Kent; Spring Lake Winery in Lockport; Vizcarra Vineyards in Gasport and The Winery at Marjim Manor in Appleton.
Food pairing items vary from spent grain pretzels with gourmet mustard dip paired with draft hard cider at BlackBird Cider Works, to beef stew made with 2012 Cambourcin (and paired with the same) at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, to mini cupcakes paired with Becker Blue blueberry wine at Vizcarra Vineyards.
At Schulze Vineyards & Winery in Burt, a pasta salad with roasted vegetables, citrus vinaigrette and asiago cheese will be paired with three recommended types of wine, depending on visitors’ preferences — Chardonnay Reserve for the dry palate, Vidal Blanc for the semi dry palate and Niagara for the sweet palate.
“It is one of the nicest events the trail does,” said Ann Schulze of the winery. “We’ve paired with a local shop called Cream & Sugar Ice Cream Café in Lockport. We also paired with them for the February (chocolate-themed) event and they did a beautiful chocolate dessert, so we decided to use them for the April event for the food.
“We’ve found through the years, as events go, we’ll look at how it went and how we can make it better. This restaurant has really done a beautiful job as far as presentation and deliciousness.”
The second weekend of the event will take place at A Gust of Sun Winery and Midnight Run Wine Cellars in Ransomville; Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, Flight of Five Winery, Freedom Run Winery and Niagara Landing Wine Cellars in Lockport; Eveningside Vineyards and Honeymoon Trail Winery in Cambria; Long Cliff Winery in Sanborn and Victorianbourg Wine Estate in Wilson.
Some of the featured pairings include pesto chicken sliders with Lock 68 wine at Flight of Five Winery, a mixed vegetable side dish from Garlock’s Restaurant in Lockport paired with Pinot Noir from Long Cliff Winery or three different flat-bread options paired with three different wines at Freedom Run Winery.
At A Gust of Sun Winery, owners Shane and Erik Gustafson will present a creamy, vegetarian carrot soup infused with the winery’s Sweet Westies White wine (as well as paired with it) and two other wine samples.
Shane Gustafson said that, for those just starting to learn about wine and food pairings, it’s a good idea to start with what you already enjoy.
“When you’re just starting to learn, pick something that you like,” she said. “There are some general guidelines people follow, such as meats with red wines and chicken and fish with white wines ... but if there’s a wine you like, you’ll probably like it with different foods.”
For tickets or more information, visit www.niagarawinetrail.org.