Ontario for Dinner

Food & Drink’s 25th isn’t the only anniversary we’re recognizing. The Vintners Quality Alliance turns 30 this year, and that is certainly cause for celebration.

It’s amazing to think how far our wine industry has come in the past three decades, travelling a road mapped out by the VQA’s high standards and guiding principles. To honour that achievement, we’ve put together a menu that could be described as the ultimate Ontario autumn dinner party. We went back into our archives to find favourite recipes and then tweaked them a little to bring them up to date. Each is fairly simple to make, letting one or two prime ingredients shine without a great deal of fuss, because that’s the third thing we wanted to celebrate with this menu: the dazzlingly delicious quality of Ontario’s fall produce. Our farmers coax the absolute best out of their land, just as our grape growers do. So whether you cook the whole menu or just choose dishes that look particularly tempting, you can enjoy the local, seasonal flavours of Ontario’s harvest, paired, of course, with our own VQA wines.


Apple Spritzer with Château des Charmes Brut Méthode Traditionnelle VQA

Greet your guests with this complex and delicious Apple Spritzer cocktail that’s based on the quintessential Ontario fall fruit: our fabulous apples. Use a craft Ontario cider and add spirited depth with a little Calvados and Cognac, and then top it up with a brut Ontario bubbly. Our local sparkling wines are now the equal of any, and this one, made with 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir, is perfect for our cocktail. It’s not completely dry and is generous with its fruity aromas and flavours, including apple and pear with a hint of honeysuckle. Garnish each drink with — what else? — apple.


Cheddar Cups with Fresh Tomato Relish & Crispy Pancetta with Grange of Prince Edward Gamay Noir VQA

Why choose this particular Gamay Noir to go with Cheddar Cups with Fresh Tomato Relish & Crispy Pancetta, an appetizer that features sweet, tangy, fresh Ontario tomatoes at the peak of their season? Gamay was one of the original three varieties Caroline Granger planted at her winery in the heart of Prince Edward County, back in 2001. Today, the vines are thoroughly mature, and the wine they produce has its own lively acidity, and bright cherry and red berry flavours, with a beguiling hint of spice. It all adds up to a great match for the tomatoes and a lovely contrast with the rich, cheesy pastry cups.


Grilled Zucchini & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad with Henry of Pelham Rosé VQA

In case you hadn’t noticed, dry, sophisticated VQA rosés are becoming increasingly popular — year-round! Henry of Pelham’s version is made from a blend of six different red varieties that combine to create both a fragrant aroma and the taste of morello cherries and ripe red apple. That fruitiness adds a new dimension to our Grilled Zucchini & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad and pairs particularly well with the creamy cheese in the recipe. Meanwhile, the wine’s discreet acidic tang picks up the lightly charred flavours of the zucchini. Refresh the wine by chilling it, but not too much or you’ll mute the fruit.


Roasted Garlic & Pumpkin Soup with Strewn Barrel Aged Chardonnay VQA

This Roasted Garlic & Pumpkin Soup was originally part of a Halloween menu in Food & Drink’s Autumn 2011 issue, in which we called it Vampire’s Demise, thanks to the roasted garlic in the recipe. Its deep nutty flavour harmonizes beautifully with the pumpkin and also with this oak-aged Chardonnay, a varietal that always pairs well with any kind of squash. Chardonnay takes many forms in Ontario’s wine regions and is justly celebrated. Strewn’s version, made with fruit from vineyards around Niagara-on-the-Lake, shows a soft texture with creamy, peachy notes and buttery vanilla oak. It’s a real crowd-pleaser — and offers excellent value!


BBQ Lamb with Roasted Vegetables and Crispy Baked Potato Chips with Creekside Syrah VQA

Ontario lamb is as good as any we’ve tasted, especially when it's cooked on the barbecue and develops all the juicy gradations in the meat, from crispy to medium-rare, as we’ve done in our BBQ Lamb with Roasted Vegetables.

We’ve taken our wine-matching lead from Australia and paired the dish with a Syrah, though ours is from Niagara, not Oz. Creekside planted Syrah almost 20 years ago and stuck by the cold-sensitive variety when many other growers gave up. Robust, medium-bodied, tangy and full of black cherry, plum and black pepper flavours, it’s a little bit of an unexpected choice, just like our Crispy Baked Potato Chips — a fun change from other potato recipes.

Plum and Blueberry Shooters with Peller Estates Ice Cuvée VQA

Red Icewine might seem the obvious choice for a dessert made with ripe Ontario plums and blueberries, but these Plum and Blueberry Shooters aren’t very sweet at all, so let’s go with something more subtle. Ice Cuvée is a traditional-method sparkling wine finished with a dose of Vidal Icewine: a brilliant idea that adds a touch of sweetness and some exotic lemon marmalade and pineapple nuances to the bubbly. A unique Ontario product, the wine is best served well-chilled, in Champagne flutes — the perfect presentation if someone wishes to propose a toast. Cheers!