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Peller Estates Winery Ontario Wineries in Canada - Southern Ontario Gourmet Travel
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Canadian Wine - Niagara Ontario Wine - Niagara Wineries

Tasting Niagara - Peller Estates Winery

by Wade Rowland - Part 3

Peller Estates
Peller Estates winery
Photo © Christine Collie
We moved on to the Peller Estates, another vast, new (2001), chateau-like pile erupting from the surrounding vinyards. Andrew Peller immigrated to Canada from Hungary in 1927, trained as a brewmaster in Chicago and established the Peller Brewing Company in St. Catherines, in the heart of what would become the Niagara wine country. Forbidden by law from advertising his beer, he cleverly purchased a small ice company, renaming it Peller Ice, and the slogan "Don't Forget Your Peller" began appearing in advertisements puchased by the ice makers, but intended to promote Peller beer.

Never one to easily adapt to the dictates of bureaucrats, when he was refused a license to produce wine by a stuffy Ontario government in 1957 he packed up and moved to British Columbia where he founded Andrés Wine and began producing (ah, sweet revenge!) the notorious Baby Duck, the nemesis of many an Ontario high school student.

The family moved back to Ontario in 1962 to finally begin the long process of fulfilling Andrew's dream of building a quality Niagara winery. Son John would eventually become CEO, and in 1995 he purchased Ontario's Hillebrand Estates winery. The Andrew Peller Signature Series of super-premium wines honour the resourceful founder. We sampled the Chardonnay 'sur lie', and the unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon from this series and were suitably impressed.

A highlight of any tour of the Peller winery has to be the restaurant built by executive chef Jason Rosso into what may be the best eatery in Niagara. It embodies the essence of regional cuisine, serving the best agricultural products Ontario and Quebec have to offer. Sprinkled throughout the sophisticated lunch and dinner menus are flights of humour that foodies will enjoy. Among the appetizers, for example, is that old standby "Macaroni and Cheese." What in my mom's kitchen would have been a wiener sliced up in Kraft dinner is lifted to another plane by a delicious six-year-old cheddar and spicy chorizo sausage.

Then there's "east cost lobster chili with six-year-old cheddar grilled cheese sandwich and truffle greens." Among the entrées is "Pork & Beans," which the small print describes as "roasted Ontario double cut pork chop with molasses baked beans." "Fish and Chips" turns out to be seared ocean perch on a bed of beluga lentil salad with aioli and an artfully arranged pile of fresh, crispy French fries. The dinner menu includes game dishes and vegetarian selections along with more traditional fare, all prepared and served with special flare.

To finish, there's a platter of excellent Ontario and Quebec artisanal cheeses, and an array of desserts that include, with another nod to mom's kitchen, a bread pudding, a rice pudding, and a chocolate cake ("hot chocolate cake, chestnut confit and thyme chocolate ice cream). Unable to choose, we ordered the dessert platter for two with a small serving of each of the six featured dishes.

Despite the rural setting, expect to pay downtown prices: appetizers range from $10 for soup to $22 for pan-seared foie gras, dinner entrées start at $25 for the vegetable pavé and hit $38 for the beef tenderloin. The dessert platter for two was $21. (All in Canadian dollars.)

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