“Characterized by complex and intense flavours derived from concentrated sugar, acid, and berry extracts, Canadian Icewine continues to win top accolades at international competitions across the globe,”
– Wine Country Ontario
When the weather is cold, and we begin to wind down from the season’s festivities, we seek ways to beat the post-holiday blues. January is not a month to bide your time in Niagara, as it is the time of year we celebrate our finest liquid delicacy- icewine!
It’s a delicacy because it’s harvested only once a year, when the temperature and conditions are just right. As sweet as the delicious beverage is, the procedure to make it is sour, but in the end, the result for farmers is beautiful; and so, once a year we celebrate with a tribute to icewine.
Though the celebrations occur annually, every year there is new talent, new pairings, and new products from the local wine makers and culinary expertise at the Niagara Icewine Festival.
A Little About The Icewine Making Process
Ontario has produced icewine since 1984, becoming internationally renowned for its production on the global wine stage in the early 1990s. Although icewine dates back to the later part of the 18th century in Germany, due to specific weather conditions, it can only consistently be produced in Canada.
The process fascinates visitors, as icewine is derived from grapes which have been left outside to frost naturally. These frosted grapes can only be harvested at night time when the temperature has remained between -8 and -12 degrees Celsius for twelve consecutive days. Each grape produces only one drop of wine – hence why icewine is considerably more pricey and sold in smaller quantities than table wine.
Niagara Wine Festival
The Icewine Festival is part the Niagara Wine Festival- a trio of Ontario’s biggest annual wine celebrations including the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival in September, and the Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival in June. In collaboration with several stakeholders, Niagara Wine Festival works with local wineries and leaders in the Hospitality & Tourism industry to put on flawless events celebrating the area’s bounteous viticulture.
The Icewine Festival
For 23 years the region has hosted the annual Niagara Icewine Festival during the first month of the new year. Over the course of three weeks, more than 40,000 attendees from near and far come and celebrate Southern Ontario’s most divine alcoholic beverage.
This year, a total of 35 wineries will participate, hosting visitors to their properties and demonstrating the talents from their vintners and chefs through competitions held throughout Niagara-on-The-Lake and Twenty Valley.
Wineries invite the public to their grounds to reveal their icewines carefully partnered with a gourmet food pairing to enhance their products’ specific flavours. Over the course of the festival, an array of events take place from casual tastings, to sophisticated dinners, to glamorous galas.
January 12th 2018
Fallsview Casino Resort, Grand Hall
Every year attendees dress up in their most elegant attire and prepare for an evening of fine wine and dining at the Niagara Icewine Gala.
Taking place in the Grand Hall of the Fallsview Casino Resort, the spacious venue is transformed into a magnificent ballroom with stunning decor, live entertainment and a dance floor.
This year all of the 35 wineries participating in the festival will proudly pour their finest VQA icewines and table wines, accompanied by stations of innovative food creations. For this year’s theme, ‘Authentically Canadian’, a special menu of dishes representing each province will be prepared by the chefs of Niagara Casino.
Niagara’s Twenty Valley Winter Wine Fest
January 12th-14th, Jordan Village
Kicking off the festivities of the icewine season, Niagara’s Twenty Valley hosts the annual Winter Winefest, showcasing the talents of wineries from the valley which spans from West St. Catharines to Grimsby.
Jordan Village is transfigured into a European-style market with fire pits and outdoor art installations, showcasing over 35 food and craft beverage producers from the Niagara region.
This year, the Winter Winefest will be hosted by Celebrity Chef Susur Lee, a Hong Kong-Canadian chef who owns several Toronto Restaurants and is famous for his appearances on Chopped Canada an Top Chef Canada.
Winter Winefest’s Sparkling Dinner and Icewine Brunch will feature gourmet multi-course meals inspired by Chef Lee, with aromatic VQA wines.
“VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance. VQA Ontario is an independent authority that establishes and monitors the province’s “appellation of origin” system. When you see VQA Ontario on a bottle, it means the wine is made from 100% Ontario-grown grapes, which have been approved through a strict quality-assurance program.”
– Wine Country Ontario
Icewine Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake
January 20-21st & January 27th-28th, Niagara-on-the Lake Heritage District
Each year Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts an extraordinary itinerary of events in the town during the three-week festival.
Over the weekend of January 20th-21st, Queen Street is closed off so the public can explore the grounds of the Icewine Village. Attendees purchase tokens and fill their souvenir glasses to sample pours of NOTL’s local icewines from 26 wineries and taste the delectable food pairings, as they admire ice sculptures and enjoy live music.
A second winter market, the Shop, Sip, Sample, and Savour occurs on the weekend of January 27th-28th, also in the Heritage District of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where local wineries and breweries sample their table wines and craft beers along with edible creations from signature kitchens.
The Sparkle and Ice Gala on January 19th invites guests to enjoy a tasteful evening of music and dining inside the beautiful Grand Hall at the Courthouse.
Additional events include the Flash & Panache Icewine Cocktail Competition, and the outdoor White on Ice Dinner, showcasing the best of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s culinary and mixology talent.
Icewine Festival in Niagara Falls
January 26th & 27th at Scotiabank Convention Centre
At the Scotiabank Convention Centre in the Fallsview District, Niagara Falls will host an extraordinary event allowing guests to enjoy 3 hours of entertainment and sampling from 20+ wineries, all included in the price of your admission ticket. This unique experience enables attendees to taste a variety of Niagara’s finest wines and icewines, along with savoury dishes at multiple stations featuring the creations by the area’s top culinary experts.
Over the three weekends of the Niagara Icewine Festival, The Discovery Pass allows guests to partake in eight adventures of their choice, redeemable at any of the participating VQA wineries along Niagara’s Wine Route. Explore the unique charm each of each property you visit, and taste the featured icewines accompanied by an innovative gourmet culinary pairing. Check out the Discovery Pass Listings ahead of time to see which wineries offer a pour with a savoury or sweet treat which sounds the most intriguing. In past years, one host allowed their guests to toast their own icewine-infused marshmallow!
Whether you’re a visitor to the area discovering icewine for the first time, a vino enthusiast looking to partake in the action of the wine season, or a Niagara local seasoned in the traditions, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during the Niagara Icewine Festival.
Mark January 12th-28th 2018 in your calendar and start planning your icewine experience. Visit niagarawinefestival.com/ to keep up-to-date with the recent information, and check in with your favourite wineries to see what special treats they have planned for the festival!