A Wine Tour + French Onion and Bean Soup

November 11, 2015 19 Comments

So I’m the girl that stocks her pantry with plenty of booze…not to drink, but to cook with. I have to admit though, that one of the best things about boozy cooking is sneaking myself a glass of wine or a cocktail on the side. It doesn’t really feel like drinking that way and adds a little enhancement to the cooking process :)

Speaking of eating…and drinking…and eating what you’re drinking, last month I was invited to visit Peller Estates in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region of Ontario to celebrate the launch of their new 10Below Ice Wine Lounge. It’s basically a super-cool wine tasting igloo! We got to hang out in the lounge, enjoying a wine tasting tour, and best of all – their executive chef prepared us some ice wine-inspired eats. ICE WINE INSPIRED EATS, people.

Now this was one of those things where Peller hosted bloggers and showed them a great boozy/foodie time in hopes that they will go home and say nice things about them on their blogs and twitters. This is new stuff for me, and a little weird to write about since I haven’t done anything like this before. So take these words as a disclosure and a heads-up about the awkwardness that may follow. And….just so you know, I was under no obligation to actually say nice things, nor was I paid (besides the free trip). Honesty is my jam.

It’s been a few years since I visited the Niagara region and it was really nice going back and being reminded about the local bounty of amaaazing wine makers so close to home. Ontario makes some pretty rockin’ wine, even though we’re not all that famous for it. A big reason that Ontario’s so special for wine makers, however, is that we have something that many of the famous wine-producing regions don’t. Winter! The grapes can be harvested and pressed after they’re frozen (at -10°C), yielding juice that is much sweeter and more concentrated. Hello, ice wine!

It takes A LOT of grapes to make this stuff… like 6 times as many grapes as you would need to make regular wine. Not only that, but the conditions at which the grapes can be harvested and processed are really specific in order to meet industry standards, so due to the fragility of the process, production is risky and doesn’t always pan out, making it that much more special….and $$$!

Below is our new friend and awesome tour guide, Ray, showing off his refractometer. This funky device measures the amount of sugar in a solution (i.e squished grape juice) and is used out on the field to determine when grapes are ripe for picking. Sorry I cropped your face, Ray – I’m working on my moving human photography skills.

Many of the wineries in the region make ice wine, like I said earlier, it’s totally our thing here in Ontario. Peller, however, decided to take it a step further and built this crazy awesome igloo thing that mocks the temperature at which the grapes are harvested at. Should you show up at their door with $15 and a craving for a few sips of ice wine and a dose of winter, they’ll hook you up with a parka and take you to their icy dungeon fitted with an ice bar, sculptures, and even and icy chandelier. I was too pre-occupied with the whole thing to take pictures, but I did snap a pour shot of their unique and delicious red ice wine being served from the ice bar.

 Peller 10below Ice LoungeOK so here’s the most amazing thing about Peller. The have a restaurant and they get to COOK WITH ALL THE ICE WINE!

Once we were done with the drinking, Peller’s executive chef, Jason Parsons, prepared a killer cheese board (and other delicious things) for us to sober up snack on. I was most fascinated with the ice wine-soaked blue cheese. It’s no joke, you guys – the ice wine runs through the veins of the cheese and transforms it to something really special.

I was sold, ready to buy a few bottles of the sweet stuff to stock my pantry with, but the price tag matched that of liquid gold and I just couldn’t swing it for my often-failing cooking experiments. Chef Parsons, I envy your disposal.

Instead I went home with a sweet little ice wine loot bag and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which was my favourite of all the wines we tasted.

I didn’t cook with it, but I did make you something from my booze pantry. The idea started off as a French onion soup, made with home-grown beans, which I hoped would make it more filling and eliminate the need to top the soup with bread and cheese. It was delicious, SO good with beans, but the bread and cheese had to stay…it just wasn’t the same without them :)

French Onion Soup with Beans | From the Land we Live on

French Onion Soup with Beans | From the Land we Live on

French Onion and Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. of butter
  • 2 medium-large cooking onions, sliced
  • 2 cups of white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 L of veggie or chicken broth
  • 1.5 cups of cooked beans (or 1 can, drained) - I used the Yellow Eye beans from my garden, but navy or cannellini beans would work
  • fresh rosemary, thyme, and/or sage
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 - 6 slices of dark sourdough bread, toasted
  • cheese for topping (I used mozarella, but I'm sure the French had something else in mind)

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium-large soup pot
  2. Add the sliced onions, a few fat pinches of salt, and grind some black pepper. Cook for about 10 - 15 minutes, over low heat, until the onions are soft and are just starting to gain some colour. You don't want them to be caramelized, but just cooked enough to bring out their natural sweetness.
  3. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high to quickly bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer until the wine is reduced by about a half and the steam coming from the pot is no longer sharp and boozy. Once it smells sweet and wine-y you now that most of the alcohol has evaporated.
  4. Add the broth, beans, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for about 20 - 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to serve, taste the soup and adjust seasoning if necessary. Ladle it into 4 - 6 oven-proof bowls or ramekins. Top with torn toasted bread, and a grating of your favourite melting cheese.
  6. Broil for 3 - 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve carefully.
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19 Comments

  1. Reply

    Ilona @ Ilona’s Passion

    November 11, 2015

    It was nice reading your review:) I didn’t try the ice wine cheese… hmm I probably missed that. Yes, the icewine is good but I agree it is pricey.

  2. Reply

    Ksenia @ At the Immigrant’s Table

    November 12, 2015

    I have only been to one winery in the Niagara region, but I *loved* it! It was such a pleasure to learn about the local wine-making process, the conditions that make Ontario wines so unique, and of course, to taste the variety of wines… We also went home with a couple of moderately priced bottles (a Riesling and a vintage of some kind) that tasted best to us. I wish I had your onion soup at home to pair with them – and I love the addition of homegrown beans!

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 12, 2015

      Thanks Ksenia :) Glad you enjoyed visiting the wineries and yeah, they it’s so great to actually buy wine there after getting to taste it! They also have a much bigger selection than I can ever find in the Liquor store. Have you been to Prince Edward County? It’s much closer to you and I’ve heard great things!

  3. Reply

    Brianne Du Clos

    November 12, 2015

    I’ve read about icewine and would love to try it, especially in a blue cheese! What a neat opportunity. My favorite french onion soup is this miso version from The New York Times: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015605-miso-french-onion-soup. You should try it; it’s really great!

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 12, 2015

      That looks really good..and so interesting to replace wine with miso. I can totally see how it works though. Will be trying that next time :) Thanks, Brianne.

  4. Reply

    Linda | The Baker Who Kerns

    November 12, 2015

    How could you ever eliminate the bread and cheese? I am having so much trouble nowadays doing that because my stomach is just not tolerant of these anymore but I can’t resist sometimes! Mmmm and I absolutely loveeee french onion anything so I’m loving this soup!

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 12, 2015

      I know, right? Haha! I feel silly for even trying. Maybe you can get away with a few sourdough croutons and some parmesan cheese? Lots of flavour without the volume and the hard cheeses are lower in lactose (if that’s part of your problem).

  5. Reply

    danielle is rooting the sun

    November 12, 2015

    sofia you’ve inspired me so well here (often because my booze collection has ulterior motives…) – but to have that assemblage of alcohol complimented recipes is really great, because the results are always stunning. your trip looks and sounds amazing – it’s a treat to be introduced to ice wine. & i have to tell you that french onion soup is absolutely one of my favorite soups. to add beans from the garden has romanced me beyond belief. i will try this soon. so many hearts. xo

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 13, 2015

      Thanks so much Danielle! Glad to inspire some culinary purpose for your booze collection haha :)

  6. Reply

    Jason Sandeman

    November 13, 2015

    Onion soup is bands down my favorite. I don’t know about making it with beans, it seems that it would do for a nice protein kick. I agree about the bread and cheese. Nothing says comfort in the winter than a nice bowl of this soup!

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 14, 2015

      Yeah the beans are unusual, but they worked really well :) Thanks, Jason!

  7. Reply

    Isabelle @ Crumb

    November 13, 2015

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who sneaks a little wine when she’s cooking. I swear I’m only doing it to make sure the wine is still good… and because I want to be really, really sure, I might need a full glass. Because I care so much about my guests and all that. ;)
    This soup looks like the perfect excuse to bust open a new bottle of white. Love the addition of beans to turn it into a proper stick-to-your ribs meal.
    PS: Love the photos from your wine tour. So stunning! (And can we talk about that cheese board? So awesome.)

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 14, 2015

      Oh totally! It’s all about the guests. Thanks so much for your comment, Isabelle! And yeah…the cheese board. Definitely inspired to step up my game…my store-bought brie with a cluster of grapes doesn’t seem so swank anymore.

  8. Reply

    Shelley | Sevengrams

    November 15, 2015

    Sofia – this soup!! Totally perfect for this chilly weather, and who doesn’t love a good french onion soup?! Sounds like you had a fabulous time in wine country, rather jealous ;) xx

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 16, 2015

      Yes! Bring it on, November :) Thanks Shelley!

  9. Reply

    Jodi

    November 16, 2015

    French onion soup with home grown beans! Sophia, be still my heart. There is nothing cozier than a big bowl of soup on these grey days, and this one looks so warm and comforting. What a great trip to wine country – and that cheese board! x

    • Reply

      Sofia

      November 16, 2015

      Thanks, Jodi! It’s all about the warm and cozy these days. We had an unusually warm fall, but it’s catching up now….so soup for the next 5 months :)

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