Desert wine is nectar in a glass - essence of honey, apricot, violets - there is nothing like it under the sun. Among the absolute finest desert wines in the world are ice wines - wines from grapes allowed to lie on the vine beyond ripening, then past the winter freeze such that as much as eighty percent of the juice in the grape is frozen leaving behind but all the sugars in the remaining twenty percent of the juice. Such is ice wine which in North America comes from a small area in the Pacific Northwest where Inniskillin Okanagan operates in Oliver, British Columbia, and from Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small strip of land between the western tip of Lake Ontario to the north and the eastern tip of Lake Erie on the south. The small land mass adjacent to the Niagara escarpment there traps the air to protect the grape vines. When the temperature reaches 8 degrees fahrenheit the conditions are right to harvest the grapes and collect the extracted sugar rich grapes suited for ice wine. Inniskillin Wines in the Niagara on the Lake appellation, licensed in 1974, the first winery to be licensed since 1929, has been producing and specializing in perfecting ice wines since 1984. Their Vidal Ice Wine from the 1989 vintage received the prestigious Grand Prix d'Honneur at Vinexpo in France. Inniskillin produces ice wine from several varieties of grapes including Vidal, Riesling, Chardonnay and even Cabernet Franc. They even produce a sparkling ice wine, which in other realms might be considered an oxymoron. Their 2006 Vidal Sparkling Ice Wine and 2007 Riesling Ice Wine won the Premio Speciale Gran Vinitaly "World Cup of Wine" in 2007.
During our visit to Niagara and Inniskillin, we were honored to meet the legendary Don Zeraldo, one of the founders and former co-owners of Inniskillin. He was responsible for championing the creation of the Niagara on the Lake AVA, and with the oenology institute there that grants certificates and degrees in viticulture and oenology. And of course with the development and perfection of ice wines in partnership with Karl Kaiser, the father of Niagara on the Lake ice wine.
Finally one is treated to a tasting in the tasting room which in fair weather is outdoors, or otherwise indoors in the visitor center. We were treated to the public tour tasting and then a special tasting of select Innikillin wines. We tasted the following Inniskilllin wines:
Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine 2008
Inniskillin Sparkling Ice Wine 2010
Inniskillin Shiraz Cabernet 2010
Inniskillin Kaiser Legacy Ice Wine 2004
Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Ice Wine 2010
Inniskillin Winery and Frank Lloyd Wright - the Wright legend and inspired decor
Ironically, the dual purpose of our to Niagara region was to visit Inniskillin and to tour the Darwin Martin House and Complex in Buffalo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright around the turn of the last century during his golden era of the Prairie Style of architecture. As a docent interpreter for the Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, I was also the research captain for Wright Plus 2012 for the William Martin House in Oak Park. William Martin commissioned Wright to design his home in Oak Park in 1903. During this time, he introduced his younger brother Darwin Martin to Wright. This lead to the commission for Wright to develop the Martin House and related buildings, and eventually the Larkin Building. Darwin Martin was the financial officer for the Larkin family and their soap and home products company.
In speaking with Don Zeraldo, former principle of Inniskillin. I intimated that I didn't buy into any theory of a connection between Wright and the winery property. He acknowledged that while this was a popular legend, there is no hard evidence of such a connection.
Some of the Wright inspired decor is shown here.