Cheers to icewine in Ontario's Niagara Region
Niagara Icewine Festival: This fest, celebrating the best in cold, flavourful icewine, is quite possibly the most unique winter activity in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and the area. Here, Inniskillin Winery's Yoko Mann pours a sampling of this year's sweet bounty. Mann says the Icewine Fest "is a celebration to appreciate the cold of winter." (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)
Savour the nectar of the frozen grape in Ontario wine country.
The fun includes the Icewine festivals across Niagara Region, Days of Wine and Chocolate and the Cuvee Gala along with the Stratford Perth County GE Cafe Chefs Series with a session on matching wine with food.
Clink those glasses
Icewine has been described as elegant, silky, lush, decadent – even the “ambrosia of the gods.”
It’s made from grapes left to freeze on the vine and picked when the temperature dips to -8 C or lower.
“These solidly frozen grapes are handpicked and pressed immediately to gently release a single drop of thick, rich, yellow-gold liquid, highly concentrated in natural sugars and acidity,” says the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake organization.
“You haven’t really experienced winter’s rare gift until you have enjoyed it outdoors in sub-zero temperatures.”
The curious along with day-trippers and wine aficionados can do just at this month’s Icewine festivals.
So cool on the lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine fest throughout this month has “signature events” on weekends, said publicist Liz Hendriksen.
The 28 member wineries have about 50 Icewine-inspired events including “Get Schooled in Cool: A Tasting with Canada’s Icewine Insiders.
Participants take part in an afternoon tasting led by a local winemaker.
This happens on Jan. 13 at Hinterbrook Estate Winery; Jan. 19, Trius Winery at Hillebrand and Reif Estate Winery; Jan. 20, Riverview Cellars Winery; Jan. 26, Inniskillin Wines and Konzelmann Estate Winery; and Jan. 27, Peller Estates Winery. Tickets are $25.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village takes shape on Jan. 19, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Jan. 20 from noon to 5 p.m. when historic Queen Street “transforms into a winter wonderland.”
Wineries will offer their choice Icewines alongside sparkling ice sculptures and the Signature Kitchens of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s culinary creations. Free admission.
The Flash & Panache Icewine Cocktail Competition is Jan. 19 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Shaken, stirred, muddled and mixed happens when local mixologists include Icewine into their cocktail repertoire for sampling and judging. Free admission.
It’s time to “Shop, Sip, Sample & Savour with Niagara-on-the-Lake Insider’s Tasting Pass ($30) on Jan. 26 and 27 from noon to 5 p.m.
Step inside the diverse settings of the Landmark Shops in the Heritage District and enjoy local Icewine while culinary offerings from Signature Kitchens are at the Old Court House along with live jazz.
Getaway packages start at $295 with tasting seminars, an Icewine-inspired dinner and accommodation at “elegant hotels to luxurious inns and cosy B&Bs.” wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com; (905) 468-1950
The queen of ice
The gala event at the Niagara Icewine Festival, Jan. 11 to 27, is the “Ice Queen’s Ball” Jan. 11 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls.
There will be 30 wineries showcasing 150 Icewines and table wines with culinary stations and artisanal cheese. Tickets are $185. www.niagaraicewinefestival.com; (905) 688-0212
The Discovery Pass ($40) includes eight wine pairings with food from more than 30 experiences along the Wine Route and a mocktail and food pass ($30) for “designated” drivers.
Winterfest in the Square in St. Catharines is Jan. 25 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with wine, gourmet cuisine including food trucks and live entertainment. Free admission.
Wine, chocolate, cuvee and chefs
- Sweet treats return to the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake throughout February for the Days of Wine & Chocolate.
This touring pass event will showcase wine and chocolate-inspired pairings on Fridays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It will include “both sweet and savoury dishes infused with decadent chocolate,” said event chair Tim Coons. Passes are $35.
- The Cuvee Weekend Wine Experience, March 1 to 3, is one of the industry’s most celebrated events held at Fallsview Casino Resort.
The gala on March 1 from 7:30 p.m. to midnight offers samples of some Ontario’s best wines while celebrated chefs and food purveyors wow food lovers at cooking stations. Tickets are $200.
Cuvee en Route’s passports ($30) enable guests to tour and taste throughout the weekend. www.cuvee.ca; (905) 684-8688
- Develop culinary skills you can try at home at the Savour Stratford Perth County GE Cafe Chefs Series on Jan. 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Held at the Local Community Food Centre (612 Erie St.) in Stratford, it features Chef Aaron Linley from Bijou Restaurant.
His “hands-on cooking class” will include learning about wine and beer pairing. Classes are $75. www.visitstratford.ca; 1-800-561-7926