The Niagara Icewine Festival is a celebration of Icewine in Ontario’s Niagara region. The Niagara wine region is a unique wine region that straddles the United States and Canada. What makes this region unique is its’ production of Icewine. And the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries are at the forefront of it all, producing 80% of Canada’s Icewine.
Icewine is a particular process that can only be done in regions cold enough. Other producers of Icewine include Germany. But the only region that produces Icewine every vernacular is Niagara-on-the-Lake. In order to produce Icewine, the grapes are left on the vines for a late harvest. In mid December, when the grapes are starting to freeze, they are picked off the vines. This late harvest allows the grapes to sweeten yet the ice keeps it from being too acidic. It creates the perfect balance of smooth and sweet.
While Icewine can be appreciated all year long, it is celebrated in January at the Niagara Icewine Festival. The Niagara Icewine Festival brings together the best wineries in the region in this three weekend long festival. Icewine can be experienced at the festival, galas and tastings throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake.
One of the best ways to experience the Niagara Icewine Festival is with the Discovery Pass. The Discovery Pass allows you to choose from eight participating wineries to sample food and wine pairings. There are over 35 wineries participating in Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, so narrowing down your choices can be a bit difficult. Here are my eight picks to help you choose:
My first and one of my favorite tastings was Inniskillin Wines. The tasting room was spacious and elegant. We were served Chicken and Waffles topped with Icewine hot sauce paired with sparking Vidal Icewine. The spicy chicken balanced out well with the Icewine. The vineyards matched the tasting room in scale. The vineyards sprawled into the distance, coated in a blanket of snow.
Reif Estate Winery
Reif Estate is by far one of the most charming wineries in the region, from its’ stone exterior to its’ wine-barrel filled tasting room. The tasting room was a cozy escape from the Winter cold. The main event here was the pig roast. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious the pork sandwich topped with Icewine apple sauce was.
Peller Estates Winery and Restaurant
It isn’t a proper visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake without a stop at Peller Estates. This winery is grand, set back beyond its’ vineyards. We peaked into the estate before headed out to the patio for roasted marshmallows. Yet these aren’t any old marshmallows, they are Icewine infused. These marshmallows didn’t burn over the fire, rather they caramelized to create the most delicious ooey-gooey desert. The Cabernet Franc Icewine pouring was a bit bolder than our previous tastings. Yet it balanced nicely with the sugary desert.
The Lakeview Wine Co.
I came here for the pizza and stayed for the wine. Half of my thought process in deciding which wineries to choose was based on what food they were serving. When I read that The Lakeview Wine Co. was serving a slice of Prosciutto e Rucola pizza paired with a flight of wine, I was sold! Lakeview was busy and now I see why. Our tasting included two different styles of wine; one traditional Cabernet Sauvignon and one Cabernet Sauvignons Icewine. It was interesting to compare the pizza paired with these two diverse flavors. The tasting room had huge windows overlooking the vineyards, perfect for appreciating the views on a cold Winter day.
Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery
If you’re looking for a fun experience, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery is the place to go! From the parking lot, you wouldn’t know how much excitement is within this winery. Yet, once you enter the courtyard, you will be immersed in a Winter Wonderland. Beyond that, this is a Winter Icewine Wonderland perfect for all ages. There is a ice rink for skating, upbeat music, an outdoor bar and the main event, the Discover Pass Icewine tasting. The Cabernet Franc Icewine was served through an ice sculpture! It was such a fun experience and a truly superb way to enjoy Icewine. For the perfect sweet on sweet pairing, we were serves a decadent Double Chocolate Icewine Cupcake.
Trius Winery and Restaurant
Conveniently located next door to Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery is Trius Winery and Restaurant. We cozied up by an outdoor fire pit for this tasting. The fire pits, space heaters and blankets are provided to keep you warm. This was a savoury and sweet pairing of Chef Dodd’s Spiced Piggy Pulled Pork and sweet Trius Vidal Icewine. Make sure to walk around the property to see the giant ice sculpture of an Icewine bottle as well as the various wine barrels with quirky saying.
Coyote’s Run Winery
This charming winery is amid farm land and vineyards. Coyote’s Run winery was full to capacity when we visited. When word gets out that you’re serving Thai Cashew Chicken, you can’t expect anything less than a full house. There wasn’t much order to the tasting. There were so many people that the tasting was a bit out of control, yet the food and wine pairing were worth the madness.
Pondview Estate Winery
The tasting at Pondview Estate Winery was the most well executed of all the tastings at the Niagara Icewine Festival. We waited in line for our turn to enter the cellar for our tasting. Rather than serving people as they came, Pondview Estate Winery brought a group at a time into their tasting room. It felt like a VIP experience. The bartender went around the bar individually pouring and distributing our first tasting: Blue Cheese stuffed meatball with Raspberry Balsamic Glaze, paired Vidal Icewine. The meatballs were one of the best things I have ever consumed and the wine was delightful. Next we were served a Salted Mexican Chocolate Ganache Tart paired with their award winning Riesling Icewine This spicy tart was balanced out by the sweet Icewine.
Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake is transformed into a Winter Wonderland the second weekend of the Icewine festival. This Niagara Icewine festival is the perfect event to attend if you want to indulge in Icewine without driving to the different vineyards. They even have many of the food pairings available to purchase! There are tents set up for the various wineries, ice sculptures for photos and entertainers for fun!
Aside from the Niagara Icewine Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake is so charming covered in a blanket of snow. (Niagara-on-the-Lake is charming at all times of the year.) Take some time to walk around town, stopping in the cute cafes and shops.
After spending some time in town, head to Queens Royal Park for some icy views. The waves have created icy snowbanks on the shore and the water is an impossibly beautiful icy blue color during the Winter.
Come Join My Journey was generously hosted by the Niagara Icewine Festival, however, my opinions are as always my own.