Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Niagara Icewine Festival is on again

The fruits of winter are flowing again in Ontario's wine country - Niagara-on-the-Lake, during the annual Niagara Icewine Festival January 11-27, 2019. Forty wineries across Niagara are participating in the Discovery Pass Weekends where you can explore the sweet, cold wines plucked from the grape vines in the cold of winter and pressed, still frozen, fermented and placed in thin wine bottles.
The process and the risks of making ice wine make the product more expensive than your average wine and the sweetness might be too much for some people, but if you try the dessert wine you will probably fall in love with it - in small doses.
Fallsview Casino fountains
Niagara area tourist attractions - like this tiny church "The Living Water Wayside Chapel"

In winter's early cold embrace the Icewine Festival gives you a great excuse to get out of the house and explore a beautiful part of our province. We love to visit the Niagara area, starting by getting off the Queen Elizabeth Way and heading into St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie. Driving along Lakeshore Road brings you into wine country, just follow the signs and pick out which wineries you want to visit. Picking the big names means waiting in crowds of people for the chance to sample the wines. Smaller vineyards gives you the thrill of the chase and the victory when you find some excellent wines not found on the shelves at the local LCBO. I personally like the smaller wineries because it is less of a business and more of a passion, customer service is usually better and you can really have a good time with some of the hosts. In Gretzky's big estate crowds meant that unless you were willing to wait, it would be some time to sample the wine. So off we go in search of wineries like Frogpond Farm Organic Winery and Mary Nissen Estates Winery which we really enjoyed and picked up some quality grape, alcoholic beverages.
Niagara Falls
Festival of Lights under the Niagara Fallsview Casino

The event starts with the the Twenty Valley Winter Winefest and the Northern Lights Icewine Gala on  the 11th and ends with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village on the 27th. In between is fun and VQA drinks, paired with some excellent food pairings and the chill of the season.

If you do like wine the southwestern Ontario region celebrates three big wine events - the Niagara Falls Icewine Festival, the Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival and the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival. Tours of wineries can also be found with buses, limos and bicycle tours. The tourist haven town of Niagara-on-the-Lake goes all out during icewine celebrations with their own Sparkle and Ice Gala, the Icewine Village, a Flash and Panche Cocktail Competition and the White on Ice Dinner. Other events in the area include Days of Wine and Chocolate and Sip and Sizzle.
The lights on Dufferin Island
Each icewine Discovery Pass is good for 9 days and valid at 8 wineries, buy more to experience more, with some of the estates holding mini-festivals and other entertainments throughout Twenty Valley, St. Catharines, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. The Wayne Gretzky Estates (distillery and winery) has an outdoor rink, DJ, whiskey patio and food on Saturdays 5-9pm, as weather permits.

The Discovery Pass brochure says to use the three S approach to sampling; Sniff (swirl and smell) to experience the wine's aroma, Sip to taste the wine and finally Summarize, especially do you like the wine, or is it time for another variety.

When you visit the wineries, during or outside the Icewine Festival, you can usually sample three wines for about $5 and if you buy wine, the sample fee is usually dropped. The prices for wines can be dependent on whether the wines are sold in LCBO stores - if they are they have to match the prices in the stores, if not, they can charge whatever they want, which is usually very reasonable.

At the end of the tour it is always worth it to spend some time in the city of Niagara Falls for the natural wonder of the falls, the pair of casinos and the many other attractions and restaurants. The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights is another reason to wander the edge of the Niagara Gorge for the illuminating exhibits from November to the end of January.

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