By: Lauren Charley

There is something divine about the peaceful scenery when cruising down long country roads, as the sun is setting behind a pink and blue sky, with a crisp breeze signifying summer’s end. Every autumn, locals and businesses from around the region come together to welcome tourists and host a celebration in recognition of what the Niagara region is known for: its legendary wine country. The Niagara Wine Festival marks the annual celebration of the grape harvest and embraces the region for its local cuisine, music, arts and culture.

[box type=”shadow” ]This year, the annual Niagara Wine festival is scheduled to take place between September 13 and 28. During this time there will be many events and activities hosted in various locations throughout the region, including the Meridian Grande Parade, festivities in Montebello Park, tours and tastings, and many opportunities to enjoy the fine culinary expertise of Niagara’s top chefs.[/box]

Welcome to Niagara’s Wine Country
The Niagara, or “Golden Horseshoe”, region is a quaint and peaceful paradise, bounded on the north by Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie on the South. Its unique geographical location occupies most of the Niagara Peninsula, which shelters the communities from harsher weather created by the lake effect. Its location and mild climate have given the area unique characteristics, providing the perfect terroir for harvesting grapes and producing wine, creating tremendous economic development from the industries of viticulture and tourism, year round.

Although the viticulture and wine making industries thrive in every season, making the area one of Southern Ontario’s most popular tourism destinations, visitors can’t help but fall in love with Niagara during the grape harvest each fall, and one of its most exciting festivities: Niagara Wine Festival. Spoil yourself with the sweet nectar of the Golden Horseshoe’s home grown grapes, and plan to attend this unforgettable experience, which runs over the course of three weekends between September 13 and 28.
About the Niagara Wine Festival

The Niagara Wine Festival was established 63 years ago, in 1951, as a way to celebrate the region’s grape harvest. Niagara is the home of Canada’s largest grape and wine industry, and is internationally acclaimed by wine experts and enthusiasts who have fallen in love with the area for its scenic beauty, peaceful countryside, renowned “farm-to-table” approach to cuisine, and of course, its refreshing, award-winning wines. “As the leading tender fruit producer in Canada, agriculture has always been a very important piece of who we are as a region,” says Kimberly Hundertmark, Executive Director of Niagara Grape & Wine Festival.

Niagara Wine Festival has had a significant economic impact on the region, enabling hospitality, retail, and tourism businesses to prosper in every season. What began as a singular fall festival, incorporated as part of the “Niagara Grape and Wine Festival”, has now expanded to three events, with the additions of the New Vintage Festival in June, and the Niagara Icewine Festival in January. All three festivals keep the spirit of wine alive in the region, embracing it as an important part of its history, identity, and culture.

Family Friendly Events and Attractions at Niagara Wine Festival
The Niagara Wine Festival offers a number of attractions which the whole family can enjoy. Kids love celebrating the grape harvest through a selection of events such as parades, concerts, entertainment acts, and street parties.

The 63rd Annual Meridian Grande Parade celebrates this year with the theme “200 Years of Peace”, as the region completes its commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. During the procession, schools, businesses, restaurants, sports teams, and financial sponsors maneuver proudly through downtown St. Catharines, as they display their extravagantly decorated floats and glowing community pride. The parade this year will be held on Saturday September 27 at 11am, as it jaunts along the traditional route beginning at Welland Ave and climaxing along St. Paul Street.

On the second and third weekends of The Niagara Wine Festival, Montebello Park’s “Center Stage”, in the heart of downtown St. Catharines, brings attendees a full roster of extraordinary Canadian musical talent. These musicians include popular, local bands and well-known Canadian tribute bands such as The Caverners, Elton Rohn, Desire- U2 Tribute, and Hotel California. Famous Canadian singer/songwriters, Royal Wood, will join the event, giving a performance on the first Sunday of Montebello’s festivities. The enjoyment of live music is accompanied by a selection of fine decadent foods and exquisite wines, offered by participating wineries and business vendors, set up throughout the park. Visitors will also find this a hot spot to find unique trinkets and treasures, sold by local retail boutiques.

[box type=”shadow” ] New for the 2014 celebration The Niagara Wine Festival is excited to announce two new events to the listing, during the first weekend of the Festival Wine Route programming: “The Shaw Festival Speaker Series” and “Taste of Harvest”. The festival is also proud to welcome the Grape & Wine industry’s new mascot, as he makes his inaugural appearance. [/box]

Educational Seminars
Adults who love to learn will appreciate taking an “Educate Your Senses” wine and cheese seminar; a tutorial presented by Brock University and hosted by bestselling author and wine industry personality, Dr. Linda Bramble. On Saturdays throughout the festival, participants are invited to join local winemakers to participate in these lively discussions, demonstrations and tastings.

New for Sunday programming this year, there will also be “Harvest Table Seminars”, perfect for gourmet foodies seeking the finest tastes of Niagara. The Canadian Food and Wine Institute Rising Stars along with local celebrity chefs will provide attendees with exclusive cooking demonstrations and sampling opportunities, using fresh local ingredients.

In addition to more didactic approaches to viticulture, there’s no better way to show your appreciation for wine than to learn about and participate in its earliest stages of production. Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan invites guests to their “Pick, Stomp and Taste” function on Saturday September 20 from 11am-1pm. Participants will get to experience wine production the old-fashioned way, by hand-picking grapes from their 80-acre vineyard, and even clambering into a large barrel to stomp the grapes by foot!

Festival Discovery Pass
Over the three weekends between September 13 and 28, the Discovery Pass is the ultimate way to maximize your experience of the legendary Niagara Wine Festival. With the $40 Discovery Pass, guests can enjoy a sampling of the exquisite local wines paired with its perfect culinary accompaniment, using the expertise of Niagara’s top chefs and viticulture experts. The pass includes a selection of eight “experiences” held at any of the 38 participating wineries in Niagara.

Each winery hosts a unique tasting with an original theme, where attendees can indulge in the best of both their culinary skills and winemaking expertise. At every establishment, the experts have worked carefully to pair their best wine of the harvest with a food that is both original and sensationally delicious. Guests can expect to try gourmet and exotic savouries like vegetarian white lasagna cupcakes and maple-smoked bacon pumpkin tarts, matched with the perfect wine to enhance the flavours of each delicacy.

Planning Your Visit to Niagara Wine Festival
Whether you are a local or a visitor to the region, Niagara Wine Festival is sure to provide an exciting way to savour the last of the warm and comforting summer months, as the season comes to an end and welcomes the fall grape harvest. Every year there are new wineries, businesses, acts, and events to be discovered, keeping the celebration fresh whilst keeping its proudest traditions.

To begin your research on this fantastic opportunity to embrace Niagara’s grape and wine industry, visit http://www.niagarawinefestival.com to start planning your itinerary!

[box type=”shadow” ] “I have been fortunate to be part of the Niagara Grape and Wine Industry for 21 years. The rich tapestry of experiences that we have woven makes me so very proud. Everyone should be lucky enough to work in collaboration with the amazing growers, winemakers and storytellers that I can call friends.” – Kimberly Hundertmark, Executive Director, Niagara Grape and Wine Festival [/box]

Viticulture: Coming from the Latin word for “vine”, viticulture is the science, study, and production of grapes. When the grapes are used specifically for the production of wine, the science is referred to as viniculture.