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Monday, September 19, 2011

Sweet! Nectar of the gods' harvest calls for a Niagara celebration

    One-Tank Trip published by Quebecor (Sun Media Newspapers) on Sept. 17/18, 2011

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time to raise a glass to celebrate the vintage harvest of the "nectar of the gods" in Ontario wine country.
   The province has four “viticultural” or wine regions -- the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County -- but Niagara draws the crowds at this time of year.
Visitors try their hand at harvesting grapes at Chateau des Charmes winery at Niagara-on-the-Lake.  (Jim Fox photo)
   That’s when about 200,000 people gather in this picturesque area to join in a 10-day celebration of the grape in this 60th-anniversary year of the Niagara Wine Festival on now through Sept. 25.
   It appears the weather “gods” have come through, providing what is needed for what looks to be a banner year and outstanding vintage, said Kimberly Hundertmark, festival executive director.

   “Although the spring was long and wet, the summer provided the vineyards with the sunlight and temperatures to produce another great vintage,” she said.
Grapes on the vine.  (Jim Fox photo)
   A sensory adventure
   Treat your senses with winery tours and culinary tastings, arts and culture, parades and live entertainment in Montebello Park in St. Catherines.
     It’s also an opportunity to explore the acclaimed Wine Route to experience wine and culinary pairings at some 35 wineries.
   There are more than 100 events including the Grande Parade next Saturday (Sept. 24) with an “outstanding procession of marching bands, drum corps, community groups, majorettes, floats and amazing performances.”
   Action central for the festival is the historic downtown park where the food-and-wine experience showcases all that Niagara Region has to offer.

   There’s plenty of sampling and savouring fine wines at the festival celebrating the grape harvest in Niagara Region. (Photo by Barb Tatarnic)
   VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wines can be savoured by the sample, glass or bottle while local chefs cook up regional cuisine costing just one or two tokens ($3.25 each) per taster-sized portion.
   Activities, including entertainment featuring Canadian talent and local favourites, and the Mayor’s Invitational Grape Stomp, all of which are free to attend.
   The new “tween” area at Grapeland has inflatables that are challenging for teens and other family fun.
   There are paddle boats, Disney cars, a mountain climb challenge, bungee run, nine-hole mini-golf, climbing rock wall and gladiator jousting along with a toddler play area.
Sweet! Jim Fox photo
   Sip, savour and munch
   Weekend winery experiences run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the Niagara Wine Festival Discovery Pass costing $30 that are good for six events to toast the fall harvest.
   Among the winery activities are Sauvignon Blanc Sensation at Chateau des Charmes, the Trius Burger Bar at Hillebrand Winery, and Parsons’ Chardonnay Roasted Chicken at Peller Estates, all in Niagara-on-the-Lake; Smoked Duck and Pinot at Coyote’s Run in St. David’s; and Big Brawny Reds and Barrel Cellar Food at Creekside Estate in Jordan.
Raise that glass, ladies, and toast the harvest. (Photo by Barb Tatarnic)
   Score with Estate Series Portfolio Tastings at the Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery and Sparkling Wines at Vineland Estates, both in Vineland, and Do You Fondue at Magnotta Winery in Beamsville.
   There’s Poutine on the Patio at Pillitteri Estates Winery; Claw, Cob; Chard (Niagara corn soup and blue crab) at Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate Winery; and Fine Wine Meets Street Food at Inniskillin Wines, all in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

   The Niagara Wine Festival's Grande Parade marks its 60th anniversary.
   For more information and on-line tickets: www.niagarawinefestival.com; (905) 688-0212.

   Good eats, drinks in Stratford
   Good sipping and tastings are at the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival next weekend.
   The party gets started with Montreal chef Chuck Hughes of the Food Network at a cocktail party on Sept. 23 at the Stone Maiden Inn.
   There will be a Southern-style “Ribs in the (Market) Square” barbecue with London’s Boss Hogs and a BBQ, Blue and Brews party, both on Sept. 24.
   Connie DeSousa, a Top Chef Canada TV finalist, hosts breakfast at the Stratford Country Club while the Savour Stratford Tasting “ultimate garden party” with food, wine and beer tastings are both on Sept. 25. www.savourstratford.com; 1-800-561-7926.

   It’s Oxfordlicious
   Oxfordlicious has returned all month long featuring local growers and chefs with “inspired menus” at select Oxford County restaurants.
   They are Charles Dickens Pub, Dairy Capital Cheese Shoppe, Ody’s and Six Thirty Nine in Woodstock; Elm Hurst Inn & Spa in Ingersoll; Quehls in Tavistock; and Manse and Niko’s both in Tillsonburg.
   “Enjoy dining with Oxford County chefs using fresh seasonal and local ingredients from land and water during this event,” said Cathy Bingham of Tourism Oxford. www.oxfordlicious.com


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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