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How to make the most of the Niagara Icewine Festival

The holidays may be over, but January can still be a time of celebration by bundling up and heading to the Niagara Icewine Festival

  • Jan 19, 2016
  • 1,034 words
  • 5 minutes
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The holidays may be over, but January can still be a time of celebration by bundling up and heading to the Niagara Icewine Festival.

Kicking off last weekend with the opening gala in Niagara Falls, Ont., the festival continues until Jan. 31, with many events, tours, and tastings. (See photos from the opening weekend below)

Ontario’s Niagara Region produces 90 per cent of the world’s icewine, putting Canada on the map for award-winning vino. The climate near the Niagara Escarpment generates warm summers and frigid winters, perfect for the creation of the golden and ruby-coloured sweet juice that wins many Canadians’ hearts.

But with more than 40 wineries taking part in the festival, you may be wondering the best way to (responsibly) experience so much wine in so little time. Here’s how to make the most of the region’s popular festival.

Get a Discovery Pass

Plan wisely and purchase a Discovery Pass, which allows visitors to have eight tasting experiences ranging from the fancy to the funky at wineries across the region. A good place to start your journey is in the Twenty Valley area where cocktail enthusiasts can sip on Megalomaniac’s cherry vodka and chocolate liqueur icewine martinis.

Explore new tastes

At Fielding Estate Winery, the Cabernet Franc icewine is uniquely paired with chili cheese nachos with crumbled bacon and blue cheese.

Heidi Fielding, one of the owners at Fielding, says that the festival opens people’s minds to the possible pairing options available with icewine, making Canadians more willing to break out the bottles rather than save them for special occasions. “You don’t have to wait and have foie gras with your icewine, or wait until New Year’s Eve. Open it up.”

Put the ice in icewine

Closer to Niagara-on-the-Lake, tourists at Peller Estates roast large square icewine marshmallows over outdoor firepits. Peller also offers tours of the property that give visitors the chance to experience what an icewine grape feels like as they enter the 10 Below Room.

“We’re the first winery in the world to have a 10 Below Room,” says Renee Wright, who provides tours at Peller. With the room kept at the same temperature grapes must reach to become icewine, everyone who ventures inside the chilly lounge dons a parka and gloves, entering an icy igloo-like room complete with an ice bar and a sculpted icewine bottle as tall as a person.

Join the party

Next weekend, the wineries take over the Old Town in Niagara-on-the-Lake, closing down Queen Street for the street festival.

“A lot of people come out to that event,” says Jeff Letvenuk, the marketing manager at Pillitteri Estate Winery. “Imagine the beautiful setting of Old Town, with the cenotaph right in the middle, and all these little tents, with all the wineries set up with barrels and wooden tables, pouring icewine.”

Relax off the beaten track

If you need a break from the tastings, take a horse-drawn carriage through the Old Town, wonder into the shops and galleries, or relax at one of the spas. Consider a facial at the Spa at 124 , where the strawberry rhubarb exfoliant and lime stimulating masque tingle your skin, bringing a rosy glow to your cheeks.

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Harvested vidal grapes appear almost raisin-like thanks to longer hang time on the vine, combined with subzero temperatures in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ont., concentrating sugars and intensifying the flavour of the fruits for icewine production. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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A grand, Casino Royale-themed gala kicked off Niagara’s 2016 Icewine Festival on Jan. 15 at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ont. Participating vendors showed off with tastings of icewine, table reds, whites, and sparkling wines. There were also plenty of resplendent ice sculptures, such as this one from Colaneri Winery, which acted as a funnel for serving icewine “at the perfect temperature” for consumption. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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Visitors to the Main Street of Jordan Village, Ont. peruse the outdoor stalls at the Twenty Valley Icewine Festival. The amply decorated street festival featured vendors from the Twenty Valley wine region and included not just wine, but spirits, mead and culinary offerings. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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The world’s only Kerner icewine, paired with hyperlocally grown apple fritters with icewine caramel drizzle are on offer at Pillitteri Estate Winery for Discovery Pass holders, or a nominal $10 fee for those without a pass. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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A limited edition barrel fermented vidal icewine (sold in an atypical 375mL bottle size) is available as part of an icewine tasting flight on the covered patio of Pillitteri Estates Winery. Shiraz and riesling ice wines are also on offer. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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A flight tasting of up to four wines is available to visitors at the new Redstone Winery in Beamsville, Ont., which opened in May 2015. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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Discovery Pass holders visiting Megalomaniac Winery need not feel surprised that rather than pair their icewines with food, they paired them with spirits to create four unique icewine martinis — such as the delectable Cherry Vodka Martini shown here. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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Treadwell Farm-to-Table Restaurant follows the “less is more” mantra — combining a few local ingredients to produce gastronomic masterpieces, expertly paired with just the right wine, in a 27-seat restaurant — making it an obvious dinner stop for visitors to Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ont. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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A tour and tasting in the igloo-like Peller Estates 10 Below Room is a quintessential stop along the icewine tasting route. As the name suggests, the temperature hovers at -10 Degrees Celsius — which also happens to be within the harvest temperature range for icewine grapes. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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The cellar beneath the Cave Spring Cellars storefront in Jordan Village, Ont. is steeped in history. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)
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Vines once laden with fruit now stand bare in vineyards across the Niagara region of Ontario. (Photo: Jessica Finn/Can Geo staff)

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