It had been three years since I’d visited Peller Estates Winery, in Niagara region, so I ventured out to see what the kitchen is up to these days.
Plenty, as it turns out. Blessed with Niagara’s natural bounty right at his doorstep, executive chef Jason Parsons and his brigade are doing better work than ever.
For instance, there’s rich house-made ricotta presented as quenelle-shaped dollops partnered with snap peas (for crunch), pickled Shimeji mushrooms (for tartness), trendy watermelon radish, lemon thyme curd (subtle citrus notes) and honey crumble.
Preserved cherries, ice wine jelly and spiced walnuts add just the right sweet and nutty notes to superbly creamy and silky chicken liver parfait.
A plated garnish of sage leaves, mushroom-dusted peanuts and Le Sauvagine cheese animates velvety mushroom soup.
A signature dish of chef Parsons, nuggets of ice wine-poached lobster perch on linguine accessorized with shaved black truffle, smoked bacon and Chardonnay cream.
Another of chef’s signature dishes sees sous-vide Ontario venison, accented with cocoa nib Merlot sauce, paired with sweet roasted golden yellow peppers and St. Honore cheese.
Fat Digby scallops are perfectly cooked and perfectly complemented by peas, chile tomato relish and skinny frites. Smoked potato mousseline, confit leeks and colourful carrots ride shotgun with rosy slabs of juicy beef ribeye.
To finish, we sample the handiwork of pastry chef Lauren Hambleton. There’s crème caramel — among the smoothest, creamiest, richest I’ve ever sampled; moist honey cake partnered with strawberry balsamic ice cream and strawberry curd; and maple almond baklava garnished with blueberry mousse and olive oil ice cream.
We also sample Peller Estates’ Ice Cuvee Rose sparkling wine that’s light and sophisticated, perfect for summer.
Adding immeasurably to the evening’s considerable pleasures is a polished and professional serving staff.
The airy, elegant room — high vaulted ceiling; white-painted wainscoting; white tablecloths — impresses with its palette of rich browns. Huge picture windows overlook the patio and give a glimpse of the lush vineyards beyond.
Group dining options include the Barrel Cellar, seating 140 people and featuring seasonally inspired tasting menus with wine pairings. Private dining spaces are available for a wide range of group sizes starting as small as 10.
The entire Estate is also available for exclusive use by groups and accommodates 400, indoors, with food station-style dining, and offers additional capacity outdoors if weather permits and/or if the participating group provides a tent.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,400 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.