With Chinese New Year arriving I thought I’d showcase some wine and food pairings that would be terrific for your celebrations during this festive time. I came across several of these pairings from the acclaimed Canadian Icewine producer, Inniskillin.  Inniskillin is world-renowned for their ultra premium (Canadian) Icewine; a style of wine that only a select few regions in the world are capable of producing and it just happens that Ontario (Canada) is one of the best, and has been for quite some time.

When most people think of Icewine pairings, they envision a super sweet dessert wine that would pair well with equally rich desserts, and they’re right, as Icewine complements the richest, sweetest desserts you can imagine.  One of my favourite pairings is Icewine with crème brûlée.  The beauty with any ultra premium wine, like Icewine, is that they’re typically very versatile.  In the case of Icewine, it’s much more versatile than just a sweet wine to be enjoyed with sweet desserts, that’s right, it’s equally terrific when paired with spicy dishes, or savoury and umami-rich dishes.

Here are a few terrific food and wine pairings that are well suited for enjoying this Chinese New Year:


Braised Pork and Miso Ramen

Braised pork and miso ramen with Vidal

Pair with Inniskillin Vidal Icewine – 375 mL $49.95

Tasting Notes: Rich and concentrated aromatics of peach, apricot and honey integrate well with the flavours of citrus and mango, all balanced by a crisp lively acidity.
Other Food Pairings: Think texture not just sweetness! Perfect on its own; a variety of cheeses (blue veined, aged cheddar, rich cream cheeses with dried fruits); seared scallops; lobster; rich patés; fruit based desserts.

Vidal Icewine is the quintessential Icewine – using the Vidal grape. The sweet citrus flavours and aromas of stone tropical fruit pair exquisitely with this braised pork belly soup.

Asian braised pork belly – Yield: 6 servings

2 1⁄2 lbs. pork belly, rind removed 1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp black pepper

2 tbsp 5 spice
8 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp chili paste
1 medium size root of ginger, sliced
1 bulb of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 stalk of lemon grass, cut in half length wise


12 cups miso soup
6 cups cooked ramen noodles
Garnishes of choice, sliced cabbage, green onions, poached eggs, peanuts, etc.

Preheat your oven to 300 F.

Mix together salt, sugar, pepper and 5 spice. Rub the pork belly and allow to cure overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat your BBQ on high. Grill the belly for 3 to 5 minutes on both sides to caramelize. Remove from the grill and place in a roasting pan.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a large bowl then pour over the belly.
Cover the pan with a lid. Braise in the oven for 3 hours or until the belly is just tender. Remove from roasting pan and let rest.

In a large pot heat the miso soup. Add the noodles to the hot soup.
Ladle into a large soup bowls. Top with the sliced pork belly and your favourite garnishes.



Cilantro and lemon grass marinated shrimp

Cilantro and Lemongrass Marinated Shrimp with Riesling

Pair with Inniskillin Riesling Icewine – 375 mL $79.95

Tasting Notes: An abundance of vibrant aromatics including peach, pear, and lime. On the palate, notes of honey, apricot and mango are balanced by a crisp and lively acidity.
Other Food Pairings: Oka, brie with lavender honey; firm aged cheddar or your favourite paté with pear or peach chutney; seared scallops with apple celery slaw; classic baked apples.

This versatile marinade can be used with chicken, pork, white fish or scallops and pairs well with Inniskillin Riesling Icewine. The Riesling grape produces Icewines with rich, fruit-forward flavours that hint of candied citrus peel, apricots and orange blossoms, and are balanced with acidity.

Cilantro and lemon grass marinated shrimp – Yield: 6 servings

30 uncooked Black Tiger Shrimp, peeled and deveined (16-20/lb in size) 3 cloves of garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, seeded and very finely diced

1 tablespoon cracked coriander seeds
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon grass 1 small bunch of cilantro chopped

Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade in a sealable bag. Add shrimp and let stand for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat BBQ on high. Grill the shrimp until just cooked through, roughly 1 minute per side. Serve on a bed of rice with a side of vegetables.




Cocoa and Soy Cured Duck

Cocoa and Soy Cured Duck with Cabernet Franc

Pair with Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine – 200 mL $42.75

Tasting Notes: This Icewine shows an abundance of rich red fruit aromas including raspberry and rhubarb, strawberry and fresh cream. This decadent Icewine boasts a lingering finish and a perfectly balanced acidity.
Other Food Pairings: This red Icewine has traditionally been paired with dark chocolate and chocolate based desserts. Combine the chocolate with red, fruit-based desserts and you have a great wine and culinary match.  OR!  Enjoy cured duck breast with this Cabernet Franc Icewine.


Cocoa and Soy Cured Duck – Yield: 6 servings

1 duck breast
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp cracked Szechwan peppercorns 1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cracked coriander seed
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Combine salt, soy sauce, cocoa, peppercorns, sugar, coriander and garlic in a zip lock bag.

Add in the duck breast and evenly coat with mixture. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 4 days.

Remove the breast from the bag.

Wrap the duck in cheesecloth and using twine. Hang it in your fridge and place a plate under the duck to catch any moisture loss. Let duck breast cure for 1 to 2 weeks (until the breast is firm).

Remove from cheesecloth and slice thinly. Serve on cold salad of your choice – like glass noodle salad or rice salad.


Switching gears a bit, here’s a delicious dessert and Icewine pairing.


Vanilla Poached Pears

Paired with Benjamin Bridge Borealis (Icewine) 2014 – $35 (200ml)

What you need:

2 Bosc pears
1 vanilla pod
a little lemon zest
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1 cup water

125g good quality butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch of sea salt
300mls cream

Peel the pears and remove the core at the base with a melon baller, taking care to leave the stems intact. Place the pears onto a plate and sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

Combine the sugar, water, lemon zest and scraped vanilla bean in a deep saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat (or use a heat diffuser), add the pears and poach gently for up to an hour, basting the pears gently every so often. The idea is to very gently poach the fruit in the syrup, and not allow it to boil. The pears will remain intact and the flesh will be perfectly delicious. Allow to cool, refrigerate overnight if you wish. Serves 2, but simply add more pears for more serves.

To make the caramel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar. Stir over a low heat without boiling until the sugar dissolves. Bring the sauce to the boil, then simmer, uncovered and without stirring, for two to three minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and wait for the bubbles to die down before stirring in the cream and sea salt. This amount makes about 11/2 cups of caramel sauce. The sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for two or three days. Serve the sauce over the vanilla poached pears, gently reheated, or serve chilled.

Read more about this recipe

Benjamin Bridge’s premium sparkling wines have garnered international acclaim and are now proudly served around the world by leading Sommeliers at some of the finest restaurants. Benjamin Bridge’s liquid gold ‘Borealis’ Icewine is destined to capture some of that limelight too as those bright Northern Lights continue to shine brighter and brighter on this award winning east coast winery.

The 2014 Borealis is a rich golden yellow that illuminates the glass just as the Northern Lights do the sky. Rich aromas of fresh mango, apple cider, candy apple, caramelized sugar, dried apricot, and sweet honeysuckle fill the nose and entice the palate. This medium bodied and delicious Icewine has a rich and sweet layered long finish with a touch of minerality persisting, reminiscent of the maritime sea breeze that every bottle of Benjamin Bridge seems to contain. Ideally suited for enjoying with rich cheese platters, decadent desserts, or own it’s own to celebrate a special occasion. My favourite dishes to enjoy with this beautiful Icewine include: vanilla poached pears with salted caramel sauce or the queen of retro desserts – crepes Suzette. Tasted January 2016. 93 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Borealis production: Estate Vidal grapes were picked by hand after the mercury dipped below -10C (14F). Following a gentle press, in that same frigid weather, nothing but concentrated and balanced sweet and refreshing juice emerged from those frozen tiny raisin-like grapes. Benjamin Bridge’s talented winemaker, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, was then able to produce, once again, another gorgeous wine that shows what’s possible when you combine winemaking talent with unparalleled terroir.”