Ontario Icewine: How to Drink It, Pair It and Love It with Karen King

Jan13th

Introduction

How is Icewine different from other sweet wines? How does that change the way you drink it and pair with food? Which pairings work beyond dessert? How can you make delicious Icewine Slushies and pair them with chili chips and wasabi peas for an incredible flavour combination?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Karen King, co-owner of the Ice House Winery in Niagara.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

Highlights

  • What differences can you see in how different generations think about Icewine?
  • Why shouldn’t you save Icewine only for special occasions?
  • How is the Ice House Winery Icewine different from others?
  • How does Karen and Jaime’s winemaking goal benefit you?
  • What rule-breaking experience can you expect from the Ice House’s Icewine Slushies?
  • How can you make Icewine Slushies at home?
  • What taste profile will you encounter when drinking Icewine Slushies?
  • Why should try a pairing of Icewine with wasabi peas?
  • Which surprising notes will you taste in the Ice House Riesling Icewine?
  • What foods can you pair with Riesling Icewine?
  • Which complex notes can you identify in Ice House Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine?
  • Are there certain aspects of a wine that make it more suited for you to have at the end of a meal?
  • How can Icewine make your other wines more interesting?
  • How did being on The Big Decision catapult the Ice House Winery’s popularity?
  • Where can you find the Ice House Winery?

 

Key Takeaways

  • Karen reveals some interesting stats: 20% of wine lovers drink dessert wine, but 80% are interested in them as cocktails, particularly younger people. I think it’s smart that she came up with a way to make icewine more accessible and have a broader reach with the slushies even though purists might be horrified. They lower the intensity of the flavour and sweetness making them more palatable.
  • Her pairings of chilli chips and wasabi peas were simply brilliant with icewine. The combination of heat, salt, sweetness and acidity was a party for my mouth. Also try other chip flavours like chipotle, lime and jalapeno.
  • I like her observation on high tone fruit like peach, pear, apricot in Vidal icewines versus the lower tone, more mellow fruit of a Cabernet-based icewine with notes of dark berries and cherries.

 

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About Karen King

Karen King and her husband, Jamie Macfarlane are the co-owners of the Ice House Winery in Niagara. Karen has applied her business and sensory expertise to support Jamie’s expertise as a master winemaker. He developed his unique award-winning Icewines through Karen’s research that identified that consumers preferred a more balanced Icewine with a complex fruit-forward delivery that had a crisp rather than sweet finish.

 

Resources

 

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Thirsty for more?

  • Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
  • Join me on Facebook Live Video every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat.
  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.

 

Transcript

Natalie MacLean 0:46
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started.

Welcome to Episode 111. How is icewine different from other sweet wines? How does that change the way you drink it and pair it with food? Which pairings should you try beyond dessert? How can you make a delicious icewine slushie and pair it with chilli chips or wasabi peas for an incredible flavour combination? That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m chatting with Karen King who joins me from the Ice House winery in Niagara. This conversation took place on my Facebook Live video show several years ago. So please keep that in mind as the context for Karen’s comments. In the shownotes you’ll find the links to the wines we tasted, the recipe for those slushies, the video version of this chat and a full transcript, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on both Instagram and Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm,  including this evening, if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published. And guess what? We’ll be tasting icewines. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie.maclean.com/111.

In the next few months, I’ll be hosting virtual wine and chocolate pairing classes for several corporate groups and other organisations as it has a great tie in with Valentine’s Day. And attendees can participate at home with their loved ones. I’m also doing a twist on that for gals only for Valentines Day. What pairs better with burning his love letters? We’ll think about a wine for that. I’m also hosting wine and cheese tastings. If you’re interested in my doing this for your group, please email me at Natalie@nataliemaclean.com. You’ll also find my contact in the show notes.

Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, recall a time you were embarrassed while playing a sport. That was the next question on the card game we were playing in the kitchen. My son Rian was home with Miles and me from Waterloo for the holidays. And my mother in Nova Scotia joined us via Zoom. In Highland dancing competitions, I answered. I wore a long artificial braid coiled in a bun on top of my head since my hair was always tomboy short. My mom smiled because she knew this story. So I continued; I was in the Canadian championships and I could feel my hairpiece loosening as I swung my partner in the reel. It started circling my head helicopter style until it gained enough momentum to fly off completely and land on the floor in front of the judge. I heard a low gasp from the crowd in the bleachers. What happened Rian asked? Well I was next level teenage mortified, but I kept dancing. I should have been disqualified, but I placed fifth. My, how did you manage that? Miles asked. I found out later that the judge thought it was sporting of me to finish the dance rather than to walk off the stage.

What about you? Did the holidays bring back a particular memory whether it was embarrassing or not? I’d love to hear from you about it. Tag me on social media @nataliemaclean on Facebook or Twitter or @nataliemacleanwine on Instagram. Okay on with the show!

Karen King and her husband Jamie McFarlane own the Ice House in Niagara; she does the marketing, he makes the wine. Their approach to icewine, however, is radically different from most wineries in terms of the style of wine they make and how they serve it; from slushies to pairings with chilli chips and wasabi peas. Karen joins me today to talk about that, and a whole lot more. Welcome, Karen.

Karen King 5:40
Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Natalie MacLean 5:42
Before we dive into those aspects about your wine and those interesting pairings, let’s talk about some of the research you did recently about icewine in general, in terms of who’s drinking it and when.

Karen King 5:54
We wanted to really have an understanding about who our target group was. So we wanted to know how young people might think differently about icewine versus the baby boomers, which is our generation. And we found out that the younger people were really open to all kinds of different ways of using icewine. Whereas other people have been taught that icewine was a dessert wine, it was a little tougher to change that perspective for them. So then we had a challenge. We said, What can we do to make those younger people really enjoy icewine?

Natalie MacLean 6:26
I remembered a little bit from the research, it was a 20/80 rule. What was that?

Karen King 6:30
Well, with the 20/80 rule, the idea is about 20% of people drink dessert wine. So that’s not a lot of our population. And 80% are interested in icewine as cocktails. So it was like, oh, here’s a great opportunity. What can we do to make people really enjoy the icewine?

Natalie MacLean 6:49
Absolutely, because I always think of icewine, of course, as our iconic wine in Canada, but we keep saving it for special occasions or gifts or whatever. So I think you’re onto something with trying to make icewine more than just a special occasion wine.

Karen King 7:05
And I think the thing that started to click for me was how, as Canadians, we are seen as more approachable and we are willing to bend the rules a little bit and not follow tradition in quite the same way. And I love the Olympics, when the Canadians came out in their jean jackets, you know, that’s who we are, we’re a little more laid back, a little more casual about the rules of drinking. So this is what we’re looking at.

Natalie MacLean 7:28
Okay, so you’re breaking the rules in a couple of different ways. Let’s first talk about the style of your icewine. And what Jamie has developed there in terms of how the icewine itself, without the pairings, your style, is a bit different from others.

Karen King 7:42
Yeah, and what we did at the beginning, we both have a background in sensory research. So we started off by doing a competitive set evaluation to map out different icewines to see where they were. And most of them had a real sweet top note. And then they have different fruit flavours. We knew it’s part of the terroir and the grape that would give the different fruit flavours. But Jamie was quite fascinated by the whole concept of “Could he make his Icewine be more crisp and refreshing by increasing the acidity?” And that was his challenge.

Natalie MacLean 8:14
Wow. And so is there actually lower sugar content in your icewine? Or is it just that the acidity is a bit more pronounced?

Karen King 8:21
That’s it exactly. The sugar content has to be a certain level to be an icewine. But it’s the crispness of it through acidity that really made the difference in the way it delivers in your mouth. And we got really interested in the whole concept of beginning, middle and end of tasting:  the whole taste profile. That’s what really made the difference in the aftertaste, the lingering taste that left the mouth feeling refreshed.

Natalie MacLean 8:48
Okay, that’s great. And what you bring to the table, Karen is a background in food sensory research and consulting. Tell me a little bit about that. Because it was quite different from the wine field, you were more in the food area, right?

Natalie MacLean 9:04
What did you do? And how did that help with what you’re doing today?

Karen King 9:07
I worked in every food category you can imagine. I did a lot of work for Kraft, Canada and US and then smaller food companies. And it was always about trying to get a balanced flavour that would appeal to more of the people more of the time. So when you start thinking about that, in the wine region, most wine makers were not necessarily open to that concept of hearing what consumers wanted. Jamie was the first winemaker I met who was interested in really understanding what consumers wanted.  So he had a different slant on how did he want to make his wine. I love the artisan concept of winemakers who want to make a wine that they think is perfect and chefs do too. But we were really working on this concept of developing wines that people would like based on where they are and perhaps where they want to go.

Natalie MacLean 9:58
And so now you’re breaking the rules. I love it. It’s how you serve icewine and one of your signature drinks/cocktails, I’m not sure how you  characterise it. As your ice house slushie? Tell me about that.

 

Karen King 10:10
Right. Well, the first thing that really got me excited about focusing on one product like this is with the overall intensity of icewine there’s an 11 point scale, we can reach it on to say whether it’s low, moderate, or high. And icewine is actually high in overall intensity. When we compared it to other beverages, whether it was wine, or even Coke, that’s more of a moderate overall intensity, that will again be sort of familiar to people and intensity that they like. So with the slushie, we said, okay, right now, it’s high intensity, what can we do to make it less high in overall impact. And I know you’re familiar with the late harvest wines, which people have said, “Oh, I like those wines, because they’re not quite as sweet”. Now you add the not quite as high in overall intensity, you still have the sweetness, the acidity and the complex fruit. But now with the ice in it, it does become moderate in overall intensity. So people love it. We were blown away; we got this great big slushie machine and we said, we’re going to make a cocktail and Jamie had to add water in order to freeze the icewine. And then I tasted and I said, “It’s perfect. We don’t have to do anything else.” And so then we develop recipe cards so that everyone can make it at home in a blender.

Natalie MacLean 11:33
That is so cool. And we’re going to do a little demo today. I hope my ice hasn’t melted too much. You’ve got ice there too?

Karen King 11:41
I’ve got ice there, too. I’m just going to close it up a bit more.

Natalie MacLean 11:45
Okay, great. I’m draining off my melted water. I’m not sure what the proportions are supposed to be here Karen?

Karen King 11:52
Well, here’s the simplest way. I put ice cubes in a blender, and then I cover it with enough icewine, that it then will splash up. And then I usually actually add more ice.

Natalie MacLean 12:03
Okay, which of your icewines  should we be putting on the ice?

Karen King 12:07
Well, we’ve tried all of them. And the Vidal is what’s called the classic icewine. And this northern ice has that crispness to it. And we feel that this is really the best icewine for making a very refreshing icewine slushie. So, like today, here, it’s hot today. So my icewine slushie is getting pretty watery too.

Natalie MacLean 12:27

More ice than wine

 

Karen King 12:32

Well, it’s watered down, but I’m going to ask you to taste it anyway. Because the whole concept is overall intensity. So I’m going to taste it too. I haven’t tried it this watered down. So we’re creating something new right here now

Natalie MacLean 12:42
Absolutely. I’m going to taste the icewine on its own and as a slushy. I like to be thorough in my research anyway.

Karen King 12:54
Well, that’s good, because then you’ll get an idea of the difference of moderate and intense.

Natalie MacLean 12:59
That is so refreshing. And I wouldn’t even think like just off dry is how it comes across.

Karen King 13:04
Yes. Isn’t that fun?

Natalie MacLean 13:05
It’s nice. It’s really nice.

Karen King 13:08
I think it’s better when it’s a slushie. And I usually do this martini glass thing. Mine’s not frozen anymore. Just got too hot. But it’s a nice, elegant drink. But I love the juxtaposition of classy icewine as a slushy. You know, it makes it more approachable for people. And

Natalie MacLean 13:31
And it does. Yeah, it does. And it’s simple. It’s simple to do.

Karen King 13:35
We did put it on a recipe card because I’d have people calling up and say what was that recipe again? So we do give that out when anybody comes to visit us at the winery so they have their little card to make Ice House slushies.

Natalie MacLean 13:48
Yeah, it’s dramatically different though, I’ve got to say. The icewine on its own is beautiful. It’s a lovely after dinner drink. But I really would change this with the ice to the beginning of the meal as a lighter aperitif that’s not too heavy, not too sweet. You know, whet your appetite kind of drink.

Karen King 14:03
And so while you’ve got that Vidal, do you want to try it with the wasabi peas?

Natalie MacLean 14:11
Oh, yeah.

Karen King 14:13
I’ll give you the story behind that.

Natalie MacLean 14:15
Okay, yeah, wasabi peas. I must say I went into my local grocery store and they said you should go to a specialty food store but I found them per your suggestion in the Bulk Barn covered with wasabi

Karen King 14:29
and usually in the nuts section of Sobeys or Loblaws. They do have wasabi peas, sometimes they have them No Frills sells wasabi peas, I’ve seen them everywhere

Natalie MacLean 14:40
It’s Japanese horseradish or mustard seed kind of flavour. It’s hot, right?

Karen King 14:45
yeah. And so when we had people coming into the winery, and we really wanted to demonstrate the idea of breaking the rules that icewine is for dessert. So we went back to the pure, the pure icewine. We’re still serving it in smaller glasses because the idea of serving icewine with appetisers at the beginning of the meal; here was our thought. This is big flavour, you’re hungry,  usually appetisers have big flavour and you’re hungry. So this with a wasabi pea really does create a party in your mouth. It’s sweetness and the acidity and then the heat and the salt. And I want you to taste it. I hope you haven’t tasted it before. Taste it all.

Natalie MacLean 15:31
This is a new sensation for me. But I’ve always heard the concept of sweet meets heat, and there’s something that happens. That’s a good thing there.

Karen King 15:39
Yeah. Okay. And a little bit of heat on that wasabi. Oh, yeah.

Natalie Maclean 15:46
Oh, yeah. Boom.

Karen King 15:48
And now take it with the icewine.

Natalie MacLean 15:51
That’s nice. That’s nice. That really evens each other out.

Karen King 15:56
So once you’ve experienced that, I think that gives you sort of an incentive to play with icewine. And it takes it out of the box of this is a dessert wine. And truly, I don’t drink dessert wine. I find it’s too much for the thing with a dessert, maybe as a dessert? But I like it at the beginning of the meal. That’s when my tastes buds are really open to intense and complex flavours. And that’s when I like to try it.

Natalie MacLean 16:24
Right. And did you ever think of I suppose maybe this is just too much of a challenge. But bottling the icewine slushie as a as a slushy?

Karen King 16:32
Right. We can’t actually because of all of the legalities around icewine; we can’t call it an icewine slushy; it would have to be called something else. And so we think the versatility of the icewine is the interesting piece. So yeah, you can use it as a slushy. But what I’ve done with this Vidal is: Jamie makes a very simple white wine that doesn’t have the kind of fruit forward I like: so I add about 20% of the icewine to his simple white wine. I’ve got an Pinot Grigio here

Natalie MacLean 17:05
I’ve got a Pinot Grigio here that needs a lot of help. Really

Karen King 17:07
Okay, try it

Natalie MacLean 17:09
What’s the proportion

Karen King 17:12
It’s the art of blending. So you’re the winemaker. And really, Jamie says encourage people to be the winemaker. Some put about 25%. What’s wrong with it? Tell me what’s wrong with it.

Natalie MacLean 17:22
What’s wrong with it? There’s supposed to be something wrong with it?

Karen King 17:24. No, I’m talking about the Pinot Grigio that needs help

Natalie MacLean 17:28
It’s just boring.

Karen King 17:30
Okay, yeah. So if it’s boring, try about 25%.

Natalie MacLean 17:34
Nice, because the Pinot Grigio had the acidity, more acidity, but it tasted like beige. And now we’ve got something that came from a designer guy palate.

Karen King 17:46
I love it. I think the trick is to add enough icewine that there’s a threshold of just detectable change, but you don’t want to make it into an icewine. You’re just playing.

Natalie MacLean 17:59
This is like a richly flavoured white wine that’s almost dry.

Unknown Speaker 18:02
Wow, Love it.

Natalie MacLean 18:04
Love it, too. Karen, you wanted to talk first about your Riesling icewine. What do you do with this one that’s unusual.

Karen King 18:10
Well, Riesling, this one blew me away because I hadn’t tasted a Riesling icewine that had an orange, tangerine, grapefruit note. And that’s one of my favourite notes in a white wine. So when Jamie made this one, it was like, Oh, this is really heaven. So we decided to pair it again with spicy appetisers. Now because we’re in the winery, we look for simple things that you can pair it with; things like rice works, or tortilla chips or anything that has a little spicy Chilean heat, kind of a flavour to it, so that people could taste it and see how it pairs. And the thing that I’m always looking for with pairing with icewine is again because it has a big initial impact of complex fruit, then it goes through that caramelised flavour and then it gets into this acidity and usually at the end, there’s another different kind of fruit note. In this case, it’s the orange, tangerine, grapefruit note. So I’m going to have you taste it straight up first, just so you can notice the last notes and you really have to pay attention for them.

Natalie MacLean 19:18
I’m  loving that.I don’t think it needs anything but

Karn King 19:22
you mean food,

Natalie MacLean 19:23
No, just pair it with more of this.

Karen King 19:26
Well, and again, for the experience of knowing how it does go with spice, I’m going to invite you to try those. I think you have rice works with you.

Natalie MacLean 19:36
I have various chips what’s left here have been gone through. I have Chipotle, I have chilli, jalapeno, and I have lime chips: like I have all three here.

Karen King 19:48
Okay, well the chilli is really a good example of how the Riesling goes well with spices. So why don’t you try that with the Riesling?

Natalie MacLean 19:59
Okay, loud crunchy correct noise. Mm hmm.That’s interesting. I like it. Whats it doing? What’s the combination doing here,

Karen King 20:10
Those ones have that chilli and salt. So this is the chemistry 101. You’ve got basic tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salt. The icewine has the sweet and the acidity. So whenever you introduce the third basic note, you’re getting more complexity in your mouth, like the aromatics have to be good. So as soon as you introduce a third basic taste, now your mouth is going, Oh, that’s fun, that’s kind of giving me something different. And that is really what makes it work. The other piece is long flavour delivery. Icewine has such a long flavour delivery; it can marry and pair up with foods that have that long flavour delivery. A simple white wine would be killed by that kind of intensity. But  we’re enjoying this particular one with Indian food where I remember reading you know, don’t serve wine with Indian food because it doesn’t stand up to it. But this Riesling or a Vidal really does make it taste very rich and powerful.

Natalie MacLean 21:12
Yeah, really just soaks it up. And yet, as you said, you know, you’ve got various elements with the icewine  already. The spicy chips, whether they’re jalapeno or chipotle, which is the Mexican version of spicy chips, just adds another note, it’s truly is, to perhaps use a cliché, like adding a couple more instruments into the orchestra. Oh, I

Karen King 21:33
Oh, I love that

Natalie MacLean 21:34
You know, it was pleasant listening to the opening overture, but now we’re bringing in the woodwinds and the percussion undertone. And yeah, our mouth is having a lot more fun

Karen King 21:42
Yeah. And I love that you’re talking about music, I see flavour profiles as music. And the next one that we’re going to be looking at, which is the Cabernet Sauvignon and Dornfelder icewine. It’s what I call lower tone fruit notes. Part of the research we did was wanting to understand sort of the emotional drivers around different kinds of occasions for drinking wine. And we learned that the Riesling and the Vidal, they’re kind of light and fun and you know, do the party thing with those. But with the Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s a mellowness to it that really just makes you want to relax. So because you’ve had a hard day Natalie,

Natalie MacLean 22:27
I know drinking all day, people just don’t know.

Karen King 22:31
I’m gonna I’m going to invite you to have this one with your chocolate. But start with this because I want you to. Do you want me to tell you the notes that we’ve identified or you want to doit yourself

Natalie Maclean 22:42
No, I would like to be told first.

Karen King 22:45
So there is a background dark cherry note. And these are of course, just for viewers who don’t know that icewine, we do not add anything to it, the change of the nuances of notes is only mother nature can do that. So the concept of taking grapes and putting them in your freezer, and hoping that you get all these wonderful nuances of different fruit notes is not going to happen. Only Mother Nature makes the change on the vine. So with this, there’s a dark cherry note that is enhanced with bitter chocolate. And so it’s a note at the beginning. There’s also a little bit of a cooked raspberry, a fresh strawberry, a plum, a fig. And then people often say there’s a port quality to it. So it’s complex, and it’s mellow.

Natalie Maclean 23:42
It’s lovely. And your power of suggestion is working. I’m getting all that

Karen King 23:43
I think the other thing that I love about this. The colour of this is a real ruby red and Jamie had made a Cabernet Sauvignon previously that was pinkish salmon. So he wanted to get a richer ruby red and he used a Dornfelder grape in his icewine to get that very rich red colour.

Natalie MacLean 24:05
And is Dornfelder the German version of Pinot Noir.

Karen King 24:09
What I’ve heard, it’s a grape that originated in Germany, but it’s now being grown here. So it’s like another varietal.

Natalie MacLean 24:20
Okay. Oh, I went ahead. I want a chocolate.

Karen King 24:23
Okay, so now you’re adding that bitter note.

Natalie MacLean 24:26
And the icewine is now not as sweet; in a good way. Yeah, like yeah, I’m liking that a lot.

Karen King 24:29
If you like dark chocolate desserts, then this is when I’d say go for a dessert with this one if you want to do an icewine for dessert. The others I’d say they’re more fun at the beginning of the meal.

Natalie MacLean 24:48
Mm hmm. This one’s really working. Dark  chocolate can be bitter, but the icewine fills it out. So there’s no bitterness but the chocolate rushes in and

Unknown Speaker 24:58
yeah

Unknown Speaker 25:00
fills out the ice wine

Karen King 25:01
I think that whole idea emotionally, how do you feel it at the end of the meal, you want to be mellow; and this is more of a mellow wine. And it’s like, I can’t really explain from a musical point of view why that is. From a sensory profile I can do a profile and say, Oh, that makes sense. But you know, when music is mellow, you know when a wine is mellow, and that is what this is.

Natalie MacLean 25:30
Absolutely. This is a burning embers kind of way. I’m just flickering little red eyes in the fireplace. Okay.

Karen King 25:35
And then if you still got that boring Pinot Grigio that you had, add just about enough colour with this to make it a rosé  and see what it does for you.

Natalie MacLean 25:48
Fun? Oh, whoops, I think I went beyond rosé . But anyway, okay, there we go.

Karen King 25:52
What you don’t want to do is add too much so that you’re now tasting like an icewine. It’s that threshold level that just enhances it and takes care of either making it more interesting and longer in flavour delivery, or I’ve used it in a red wine that is too stringent for my liking. And it just smoothes it out beautifully.

Natalie MacLean 26:14
That’s nice. What I’m getting now are wild tart raspberries.

Karen King 26:18
Oh, isn’t that fun?

Natalie MacLean 26:21
Yes, I’m running through an open field of them. I’ll be back. That is so great Karen. Oh, I love the way you’ve redesigned icewine

Karen King 26:33
Thank you. It’s been really fun. I mean, it’s, it’s fun. It really is.

Natalie MacLean 26:38
So speaking of designing, tell me about your experiences. You were on the Big Decision on CBC and Steven and Chris, the Designer Guys. So I think it started with the Big Decision. Is that right?

Karen King 26:51
It did. We were a small winery that my brother is the finance guy. And I said, Kevin, how much money have I got in my advertising and marketing budget to move forward? I had just really started the role. And he said nothing. I said, Okay, so I love social media, because it sort of evens out the playing field for all of us doing different things. And I decided to apply for the Big Decision. And then I had to take photos, I had to use my camera and take photos of us and write quite a long proposal of why we thought we would be a good candidate for the show. And we really wanted to get some awareness about the Ice House out there. And the day after the show aired our hits on our website went from 100 or so to over 7000.

Natalie MacLean 27:44

Wow. And why do you think they chose you? Like I’m sure there are a lot of struggling wineries, it’s not a high margin business. So why did they pick you?

Karen King 27:53
Well, first of all, you have to enter , you have to apply, you have to be willing to say you know what? They’re going to show you the way they’re going to show you and if that’s okay with you, that’s okay. And on the Steven and Chris show, I made a blunder on this element that I brought to show how you can press icewine. And they said, didn’t you prepare yourself for national TV? And it was one of those crazy days, you know, so but you know, that happens in my life on a regular basis. You know, you just can’t be prepared for everything, you can’t.

Natalie MacLean 28:30
Absolutely, yeah, no, people like reality. So you were on the Big Decision. And you went through the whole business case with them? What were the key insights that you got from, I assume it was mostly Jim Treliving that you spoke with.

Karen King 28:45
You know, the biggest thing he did for us was to give us confidence in the project. And, you know, he said to us, you guys can probably do it on your own. But I’d like to invest. And what we said was, can we wait another six months, because we’re getting into the busy season, we want to know how we’re  really doing so we’re still negotiating with them. We haven’t yet come to any conclusion. But you know, when you have someone like Jim Treliving believing your product, it’s really, it really does feel solid. And so that felt good.

Natalie MacLean 29:23
And then on Steven and Chris, did you see another big hit on your website? Or..

Karen King 29:26
They were fabulous. I mean, they were willing to really work with it. And even I think what’s neat now when people come to the winery, they come and they say Oh, hi. Like, it’s like, they know me and somebody said, Oh, you’re like a celebrity and somebody else said no, you’re really not like a celebrity. You’re like an old high school friend that we know. We know about you, you know. And so that’s great because we want people who come to the winery to feel welcomed. We want them to feel like they’re an old friend and you know that the hardest time is when we have too many people coming in at once. And we can’t give them the attention we really want to give them. The theory behind it was when someone comes to my house, they always get a drink, and they always get something to eat. And it’s the same thing at the winery.

Natalie MacLean 30:13
I’ll be right over.

Karen King 30:15
Well, I hope you do.

Natalie MacLean 30:20

Yeah, absolutely. And so for folks who want to visit you, Karen, what part of Niagara are you in?

Karen King 30:24
We’re in Niagara on the Lake. And we’re on the Niagara Parkway, which is the main road that goes into Niagara on the Lake. And it also feeds from Niagara Falls, so people who go to the Falls, and then they want to go into Niagara on the Lake,  we’re the first winery on the left, so our location was really great. So we were actually having more visitors internationally until the Big Decision. Then we had Canadian visitors. They just didn’t know about us. They didn’t stumble across us. So the Big Decision has brought a lot of Canadians and truly, we keep saying we’re Canadian, and we’re proud of it. Jamie’s one of the few Canadian winemakers who’s really had a success. So we’re going yay, yay yay. We’re Canadian.

Natalie MacLean 31:06
I’ll drink to that.

Karen King 31:08

Thank you.

 

Natalie MacLean 31:10

All right, Karen. Thank you so much.

 

Karen King 31:13

My pleasure.

Natalie MacLean 31:15
It’s just my blend, I think anyway. Overall, I’d say, yeah, I’m gonna have fun with this. This isn’t over anything. Guaranteed. All the best to you.

Karen King 31:23
Thank you very much.

Natalie MacLean 31:29
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Karen King. Here are my takeaways.

  1. Karen reveals some interesting stats. Only 20% of wine lovers drink dessert wine, but 80% are interested in them as cocktails, particularly younger people. Think it’s so smart that she came up with a way to make icewine more accessible and have a broader reach with the slushies. Even though purists might be horrified. You know, I think they really lower the intensity and the flavour and sweetness of icewine making them more palatable.
  2. Her pairings of chilli chips and wasabi peas are simply brilliant with icewine. That combination of heat and salt and sweetness and acidity was a real party for my mouth, I gotta say. Also, I suggest you try other chip flavours like chipotle and lime and jalapeno.
  3. I really like Karen’s observations on high tone in fruit like peach, pear and apricots in Vidal or white icewines, versus the lower tone, more mellow fruit of Cabernet based icewine with notes of dark berries and plums and cherries.

In the show notes, you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the recipe for those slushies, the video version of this chat and a full transcript, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find me on both Instagram and Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm including tonight, if you’re listening to this on the day the podcast is published. We’ll be tasting some awesome icewines and talking more about how they’re made and what to pair and all the rest of it. You’ll find that all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/111.

If you’re interested in my hosting a wine and cheese or wine and chocolate tasting for your group, please email me at Natalie@nataliemaclean.com. You’ll also find my contact in the show notes. You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with New Zealand winemaker Richard Painter of Left Field wines. He has some great stories and wines to share. In the meantime, if you missed Episode Three, go back and take a listen. I chat about why you like the wines you do with Marnie Old and Jean-Charles Boisset. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Unknown Speaker 33:58
And for many people, one of the reasons it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that you like or dislike about a wine, is because it’s so difficult to learn to recognise and describe the tactile elements of wine, the things that you feel on impact. The prickle of carbonation, the kind of bracing, knifelike edge of acidity, the mouth filling richness that we get with higher alcohol content in the wine and so on. These are not simply aspects of wine that are important to its taste or to its smell, but also to the way that it impacts on the palate. And that I have to tell you is often the make or break factor for many people about whether they like a wine and want to try it again, or whether they would rather try something new next time.

Natalie MacLean 34:41
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the icewine tips and cocktails and pairings that Karen shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a lovely icewine with chilli chips.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week.  Cheers!

 

 

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