Celebrating Icewine: Niagara's Coolest Export

Celebrating winter like no other destination, each January, Niagara focuses their attention on the sweetest fruits of their labour; transforming the region into a wintry wonderland for a three week long celebration of all things icewine.
Held January 13-29, this premiere ice-wine festival is only the tip of the iceberg; from the abundance of local produce and world-class wineries to countless fine dining kitchens, Niagara is a year-round veritable feast for aficionados of all things culinary – all of which join to create more than one reason to visit Niagara during the colder months.
Though icewine’s roots can be traced back to centuries old German winemakers, the sweet wine has come to be known as one of Canada’s most luxurious trade-marks. Guided by nature and born from a recipe that combines patient wine makers with the quick snap of winter’s bite, this popular dessert wine is produced from grapes left on the vine well into the winter months to freeze and concentrate in order to intensify their flavour and create a thick, rich and sweet beverage.
Regional highlights at this year’s festival include the annual transformation of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic old town into the storybook icewine village and the Scotiabank Convention Centre into a winter wonderland, the luxurious Xerox Icewine Gala and the diamond studded Sparkle and Ice Gala.
“January has come to be known as the month of icewine,” says Janice Thomson, Executive Director of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce & VCB and an active member of the IceWine Festival for over 15 years. “We get thou-sands of visitors that come to Niagara in January because of it. They come because they want to learn about icewine for the first time. But you also see a lot of people – beyond the visitors – like locals meeting up with friends and meeting up on the streets and returning visitors who know it’s the time to come to Niagara in January. For me that is a wonderful part of it.”
Participating wineries will also host their own individual events in conjunction with the three weekend festivals held in different communities within the region.
“One of the purposes of the festival and our goal is to not only get people sampling the wines out on the streets but then to encourage them to go out to the individual wineries where they have the organized tours and an education component,” said Thomson. “People can learn about the production of icewine and the harvesting of the grapes, how it works, etc.”
This list is only a few of the extravagant events held throughout January as rich and lavish as the wine the region is celebrating.


Fallsview Casino Resort, Niagara Falls I January 13 | $185 +Tax
Famously considered one of Ontario’s most luxurious wine and culinary events, the festivities begin with the Xerox IceWine Gala which has helped to kick off the month of icewine for over 20 years. Since its inaugural gala in 1995, the event has helped promote VQA icewine and premium red, white and sparkling wines from over 35 local wineries alongside the Fallsview Casino Resorts’ top chefs as they create mouthwatering dishes that are as beautiful as they are delicious.The icewine festival says countless hours have been spent deciding on the theme for 2017 – with the team finally resting on Casino Royale to mimic it’s backdrop of the Fallsview Casino. The transformation of the Grand Hall sets the stage for a glamorous black tie affair; from the colours and textures of the décor to the masterfully crafted and seasonally appropriate ice sculpture centerpieces. Live entertainment includes music by Sandy Vine and The Midnights and piano great Frank Krahn. An auction will as well be held featuring items for bid associated with the Casino Royale theme.


Courthouse, Niagara-on-the-Lake I January 20 I $95 + Tax
Celebrating the wine makers and chefs of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the annual Sparkle and Ice Gala helps kick off the icewine festivities held within the historic old town. The event is intimate, with only 200 tickets available, but with intimacy comes luxury; each attendee is entered into a draw to win a diamond – to go hand in hand alongside the Sparkle and Ice theme. 28 wineries will host their VQA wines paired with inspired tastings from the Signature Kitchen Chefs who work together to cater the lavish event. This collaboration of kitchens includes chefs from world-renowned kitchens Bistro Six-One, Cannery Restaurant at Pillar & Post, The Epicurean, Escabèche Restaurant at Prince of Wales, Ginger Restaurant, Hob Nob Restaurant & Wine Bar, LIV at White Oaks, Peller Estates Winery Restaurant, Ravine Vineyard Winery Estates, Restaurant Oban Inn, Riverbend Inn, Tiara Restaurant at Queen’s Landing, Trius Winery at Hillebrand and Zees Grill at Shaw Club Hotel & Spa. Stations will be set up within the courthouse to accompany the passed around hors d’oeuvres allowing people to sip, sample, wander and enjoy live entertainment throughout the entirety of the night. The evening closes with a trip out onto the streets where NOTL’s IceWine Village will await. An icewine sample will then be enjoyed in a glass made of ice as fi reworks are set off in order to toast the beginning of the back to back weekend events.


Heritage District, Niagara-on-the-Lake
January 23-24; 30-31 | Free admission
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic Queen Street transforms into an unforgettable winter wonderland as the town shops come together with Signature Kitchens and NOTL wineries to play their part in wine country’s annual celebration of icewine. Admission to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine Village is free but there will be lots of stalls and stations set up for you to spend your hard earned money at. Amongst the stalls, wandering musicians and entertainment will be present as well as local craft breweries and cider makers. “We are celebrating not only the icewine industry but the beauty of Niagara after the snow falls,” said Thomson. Warm up stations will be set up along the street with campfi res and chairs arranged that encourage leisurely lounging and enjoyment of the festival.


Queen Street, NOTL I January 23 I Free admission
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s top mixologists compete in the much anticipated annual cocktail competition. One of the highlights in the NOTL village, admission is free, but participants are encouraged to sample and purchase cocktails after the competition to judge for themselves who should take home first prize. The competition is judged by visiting sommeliers and truly innovative cocktails have emerged from the event over the years – and later become staples on local bar menus.


Queen Street, NOTL I January 28 I $100 + Tax
Held outdoors on historic Queen Street in an extravagant heated tent, this is the first year this annual event has been opened to the public and it has been very well received.  This two hour event will feature live entertainment, VQA wines – including but not limited to icewine – and catered by Signature Kitchen Chefs. This year’s event will feature micro-meals as the culinary star instead of the traditional samples and hors d’oeuvres the event has seen in past years. “Rather than have samples catered around, the chefs will present a micro meal,” said Thomson. “This allows chefs to present what they do so well.”


Scotiabank Convention Centre I January 27-29 I Prices Vary
The Scotiabank Convention Centre will once again trans-form into a winter wonderland for the 2017 Niagara Falls Icewine Festival. Cozy-up as you sip your way through premium VQA Wines and Icewines from over 20 of Niagara’s wineries paired with savoury dishes prepared by ten of Niagara’s Top Culinary Chefs. Live entertainment will be present to keep the dance floor alive but if the party gets a little too toasty, the outdoor Icewine Winter Wonderland will be available for a stroll through to cool down; complete with ice sculptures, light displays and the beauty of Niagara Falls in the winter. This ticketed event includes two package options: a General Admission ticket that includes access to three hours of sampling, a commemorative glass and the live entertainment. Tickets start at $39 dollars for early birds but go up as the event approaches; tickets will be $75 dollars at the door of the event. A VIP Admission ticket is also an option for visitors looking for a more exclusive experience. This package includes all general admission perks, an extra one-hour early access, wine tasting passes to a selection of local wineries, a dedicated VIP area and a commemorative gift. Tickets start at $55 dollars for early birds but go up as the event approaches; tickets will be $90 dollars at the door of the event.

By: Gabrielle Tieman

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