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Ontario's Niagara Icewine Festival marks 20 years

QMI Agency writer Jim Fox.

By Jim Fox, Special to Postmedia Network

Enjoying a glass of wine at one of the Niagara Icewine Festival events. (Handout)

Enjoying a glass of wine at one of the Niagara Icewine Festival events. (Handout)

It’s time to chill out again in Niagara Wine Country and the colder the better for this annual party in the dead of winter that celebrates icewine.

The dessert wine renowned for its intense flavours, rich bouquet and smoothness is something that’s rivalling maple syrup as a Canadian iconic product around the world.

For three weekends in January, the Niagara Icewine Festival will mark its 20th year.

“The festival offers plenty for every taste – from elegant gala evenings to irresistible wine-and-food pairings and outdoor activities from exploring ice street villages to marshmallow-roasting along the famed wine route,” said Kimberly Hundertmark, executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.

Icewine is produced from grapes that have been left on the vine after the fall harvest. Once the temperature dips to -8C or lower, the frozen grapes are handpicked and pressed immediately to carefully release a thick, rich, yellow-gold liquid, highly concentrated in natural sugars and acidity.

Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold to ensure an icewine crop in most years, with 60 wineries now involved. Icewine is quite pricy as fruit left on the vine is vulnerable to rot, ravaging winds, hail, hungry birds and animals as well as being labour-intensive and producing small yields.

PARTY TIME

Things heat up as the celebration begins on Jan. 9 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Xerox Icewine Gala: 20 Years of Red and Gold at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls. Those attending the formal event can sample a wide selection of icewine and table wines paired with culinary delights created by the casino’s chefs.

“Live entertainment, dancing and an evening of the best wine and food Niagara has to offer sets the tone for a weekend to remember,” Hundertmark said. Tickets cost $185.

The Discovery Pass touring program along the Wine Route is offered Fridays through Sundays for three weekends from Jan. 9. Pass holders can enjoy eight wine-and-culinary pairings at some 35 wineries.

“From hearty chilis and savoury soups to the sweet treats paired with VQA icewines and table wines, the experiences are sweet, savoury and spicy,” Hundertmark said. Passes are $40.

NEED TO KNOW

For more information: niagaraicewinefestival.com


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