When I visited: January 18, 2014
About the festival:
The Niagara ice wine festival ran from January 10th to 26th, 2014 at Niagara-on-the-lake. As I was in the city on January 18th and 19th visiting a cousin who lives right in the heart of the wine region (yes, lucky me!), I had to check out the festivities in town.
My timing was impeccable, as the “NOTL ice wine village” festivities was happening that weekend in the historic Queen St. right downtown NOTL. A block of the street was sectioned off for pedestrians. Having been on several wine tours in the Niagara region, I was well aware of how hard it is to produce ice wine. If you don’t know, Google it. You will have much more appreciation every time you drink it.
This was a fantastic event since most or if not all the wineries that have ice wine in the region were there representing. That means I could sample TONS of ice wine without having to drive to each winery. That’s brilliant! Canada is one of the premier ice wine makers of the world, and the cold weather…actually frigid weather, could not stop many brave souls from coming to commemorate and taste the Canadian gem.
Similar to other festivals, there was a token system; 1 token for each food sample, 2 tokens for an ice wine (1 oz) sample, and 1 token for a commemorative glass. Each token costed $3. An easy system and prices were reasonable.
What I ate and drank:
I sampled 4 ice wines and the one that stood out for me was the Innisklin Vidal 2006 icewine, as it was rich, aromatic and fruity. At the Innisklin stand, the gentleman was friendly, informative and provided suggestions to pair well with the wine. It really showed the amount of pride and love for the wine he likely helped to produce. He mentioned that the vintage wine has notes of apricot and mango, and as it ages, it will get darker in colour. It also pairs well with blue cheese and foie gras. And even better, there was a special rate just for the weekend. The bottles were available for purchase at the winery, which was a close drive away.
There were plenty of food vendors serving chowder, soup, grilled-cheese, chocolate and other tasty culinary creations that paired well with ice wine.
We enjoyed the 5-spice pork belly with a white bean cassoulet from Oban Inn, as well as the smoked ribs from the Ravine Estate Winery. My fingers were almost frost bitten but that didn’t stop me from licking every saucy finger.
The grilled cheese on sourdough with Niagara gold duck confit, and vidal pickled apples and arugula from Charles Inn seemed to be one of the fan favourites based on the long line up. The description definitely sounded enticing!
This is an awesome event! This event is great for the ice wine connoisseur, as well as individuals who want to learn more about it. There’s always something to do while visitors are in town with tons of quaint shops and restaurants. If visitors were around until the evening (from 9-11 pm), local chefs came to the village to showcase their creativity by creating cocktails using ice wine.
The weekend event was fun, but I would recommend getting the discovery pass for $40 + HST, as visitors can get so much more of the ice wine festival. The pass can be purchased at the first winery visited and visitors can tour the wine route in January and enjoy 8 award-winning wines and food pairings for various weekends during the festival. As an example, at Creekside Estate Winery, there was a “make friends with bacon” event on Jan 11-12th, 2014 where Chef J. Mark Hand’s was serving “opened faced smoked candied bacon and onion “Sammy” with a reserve pinot gris. Wow, I am salivating! For more information on upcoming events, do check out the Niagara Wine Festival website.
I am looking forward to experiencing other festivals at NOTL.