You know that when winter starts setting in, after the excitement of the Christmas season, it can only mean one thing: time for the Niagara Icewine Festival! For those who don't know, icewine is made from grapes which are left on the vines to freeze. There are rigorous criteria for making icewine, and it's generally this time of year that the finally temperatures drop enough. In fact, the harvest just started this week. While I'm so not interested in actually harvesting the grapes, I do love the end results. So I was quite happy to join my brother this past Sunday at the festival, which takes place in Niagara-on-the Lake.
The main street is shut down, and local wineries and other businesses set up booths with food and drink samples, along with ice sculptures. Unfortunately, high winds resulted in the cancellation of the outdoor festivities on Sunday. After seeing large chunks of ice that had toppled down, I couldn't blame them. It was disappointing, but the stores were still open, and there were a lot of special events at the wineries.
|Remnants of the Ice Lounge|
Our next stop was Wine Country Vintners, a tasting spot that features a few local wineries, to taste some great icewines. If you've never had it, icewine is very sweet - and I'm not one for sweet wines. But the great icewines are nicely balanced - the sweetness is definitely there, but it's not cloying. Icewine, however, is one of those thing where you get what you pay for. That's why tasting are so much fun - you can try a $95 icewine without actually paying $95 - and keep in mind, that price is for a half bottle!
|White icewine flight|
Next - the very best thing on the face of the earth.
|Cabernet Franc icewine|
And this is where I eat some crow to go along with my wine. I have never had wines from Wayne Gretzky Estates, because I figured the name was the selling point, not the quality of the wine. But their cab franc icewine was the best of the bunch - I'm going to have to try some of their other wines now!
After that, we wandered around, stopping in at Greaves, of course (I had to buy my favourite, black currant jelly. Not jam, jelly. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find black currant jelly? Greaves is the only company I know that makes it - and they are local. Win-win!).
|George Bernard Shaw - dressed up for the Christmas season!|
|Not your standard Starbucks!|
|Look at all the coffee goodness...|
|Do you think Rob Ford has his own coffee blend? Yeah, me neither.|
We then decided to go to some of the wineries. There are so many of them, I couldn't even begin to name them, and more are starting up all the time. But we settled on three - Peller, Pondview and Colaneri.
Peller was fun - they had a special food menu for the weekend, and in keeping with the spirit of the festival, everything was outside.
Did I mention it was really cold? And really, really, really windy?? Fortunately, they had a bunch of these scattered about:
To get this:
Oh well - marshmallow washes out easily, and it was the first time I ever roasted marshmallows in the winter! I think that needs to become a new Christmas tradition...
After tasting some great Peller wines, we went to Pondview, where I saw the whole reason for the entire event:
Our last stop was at Colaneri, a winery I had never visited before. My brother wanted me to taste their equivalent to icewine: Recioto. Recioto wine is made from dried grapes, and results in an intensely flavoured, sweet dessert wine. We tasted all four of their Profondo line: Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. My favourite of the four was the Gewurztraminer, and again, I'm going to have to stop back in one day, both to buy some recioto and to taste some other wines!
This is definitely an event that any local wine lover should go to, and I'm looking forward to next year - hopefully, the weather will be more cooperative, and I'll get to experience the entire event!
Full disclosure: My brother worked for a local winery in the past, and still works in the industry. All tastings were complimentary, but this did not influence any of my reviews.