By Mike Keenan.
January is Icewine Festival time in Niagara. This year, 2018 ,marks the 23nd year in which the popular festivals attract wine lovers and foodie fans to celebrate winter’s sweet, delectable charms spread throughout 40 participating wineries – 20 in Niagara-on-the-Lake and 20 more in St. Catharines/Twenty Valley.
How popular are the festivals? Sylvia Augaitis, Executive Director of Marketing for the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, says “Niagara’s Icewine Festivals attract over 40,000 visitors to Ontario’s wine country each year.”
The Icewine harvest started this year with Niagara wineries picking grapes as temperatures dipped below minus 8° Celsius. The festivals start January 12th and continue until Monday, January 28th.
Kicking off this popular festival is the annual Icewine Gala on Friday evening, January 12th at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls. The Gala features over 100 VQA wines from award-winning Ontario wineries. In addition, top chefs create mouth-watering dishes that are as beautiful as they are to taste plus live entertainment.
My usual strategy is to acquire a Discovery Pass which allows participants to choose wine and culinary pairings from the incredible VQA wineries. It’s also an excuse to drive around Niagara and to check out what’s new such as the Gretzky and Hare Wine Co. venues on Niagara Stone Road. Discovery Passes are sold at $45 plus HST each and contain eight experience vouchers valued at $10 each, redeemable at participating wineries. Each winery offers a pairing of Icewine and food.
In St. Catharines, check out these wineries:
13th Street Winery – Founded in 1998, 13th Street produces a range of exceptional, critically acclaimed wines with a particular focus on Gamay and traditional method sparkling wine. Winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas brings with him a rich heritage of winegrowing knowledge from his native Chablis in France combined with years of experience in Niagara. Jean Pierre’s winemaking philosophy is quite simple. He believes that great wines come from the best grapes grown in the best vineyards and winemaking techniques are only utilized to capture the very essence of the grapes’ provenance and character.
Hernder Estate Wines – This winery, opened in 1992, is housed inside a fully restored, Victorian era cattle barn that dates back to 1867. Owned and operated by the Hernder family; Fred, wife Ricki and their children Angel and Chris. Hernder Estate Wines produces over 50,000 cases of wine each year and although considered a mid-sized winery by industry standards, they are a large grape grower with over 500 acres of grapes. This vast, picturesque property on which Hernder Estates is located is a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the perfect glass of wine. In fact, the scenery is so breathtaking that it has caught the eye of many couples tying the knot. Last year over 100 weddings, along with countless corporate events were held at the Hernder property.
Celebrating the festival is a good way to get even with your friends in Florida. You can find a complete listing of wineries and events at: www.niagarawinefestival.com
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