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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Frozen nectar of the vine draws wine aficionados to the Niagara Icewine Festival

   One-Tank Trip for Jan. 16/16
   (c) By Jim Fox

   They’re mining some “liquid gold” in the Niagara Wine Region and inviting everyone to come and celebrate the chilly nectar of the vine.
   Step aside maple syrup, Icewine is an Ontario treasure savoured around the world.
   This sweet intensely flavoured wine is made from grapes that have been left to freeze naturally on the vine.
Two festival-goers make a toast with iconic Canadian Icewine.
   For two decades, the celebration of this harvest has taken place at the Niagara Icewine Festival happening now from Friday to Sunday through the end of the month.
   It provides the opportunity for people to find out what Icewine is all about and sample this dessert wine delicacy.
   Ontario has produced Icewine since 1984 and gained world acclaim once Inniskillin won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Bordeaux’s Vinexpo wine fair in 1991.
   With its hot summers and cold winters, Ontario is ideal for the production of Icewine.
Klaus Reif of Reif Estate Winery shows grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine and become Icewine. (Photo by David Devine)
   Once the temperature dips to -8C or lower, the harvesting begins as it did on Jan. 4 this year.
   Ontario produces about 90 percent of this iconic Canadian product, with annual output of 850,000 litres.

   Major world markets after Canada are China, Japan, the United States and United Kingdom.
   The most popular grape varieties are Vidal Blanc, Riesling and Cabernet Franc, with small lots of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
   Wine Country Ontario calls it a luscious wine, “boasting rich aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruits, such as lychee, papaya and pineapple.”

Enjoying a cold one at a bar made of ice during the Icewine festival.
   Warming icy weekends
   “What began as a gala event 21 years ago has evolved into three weekends of globally sought after Icewine experiences,” said Kimberly Hundertmark, executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.
   The party includes “stunning formal affairs,” outdoor ice village settings and wineries setting the stage with incredible culinary and Icewine delights, she said.
   Hundertmark outlines what she calls a “festival experience like none other in the world.”
   - Taste the best in culinary and wines, as noted Niagara chefs prepare Icewine-infused delights or create the ultimate Icewine pairing.
   - Feel the cold on your cheeks as you stand amidst the vines and learn how Icewine is produced.
   - Gaze at the surrounding beauty following the famed Wine Route as it threads its way from the Niagara Escarpment to the Niagara River.
   - Smell the rich honey and peach undertones of a perfectly balanced Icewine, followed by a savoury morsel that is equally mouth-watering.
   - Listen to the storytellers at the wineries as they share memories of an Icewine harvest.
   The festival’s Discovery Pass allows visitors to explore the wintry landscape along the route.
   This is a popular tasting program to experience eight wine and culinary pairings at a choice of 40 wineries. Passes are $40 ($30 for designated drivers).
   From hearty chili and soups to sweet treats paired with Vintners Quality Assurance Icewines and table wines, the experiences are “sweet, savoury and spicy.”

Highlights of the Niagara Icewine Festival are culinary events paired with fine wines. (Photo by Sandra Ozkur)
   New for 2016
   The festival is partnering with the popular Downtown D’Lish dining-out program in St. Catharines to savour the bounty of Niagara.
    Participating restaurants are offering culinary creations and libations inspired by Icewine through Jan. 30.
   Available are three-course, fixed-price lunch and dinner menus from $15 to $40.
   There’s also a chance to sip and savour Niagara’s finest at the Scotiabank Convention Centre (6815 Stanley Ave.) in Niagara Falls that becomes a “winter wonderland” from Jan. 29 to 31.
   “Organizers are expecting over 10,000 visitors for the weekend events to sip, sample and savour seasonal vintages of the uniquely Canadian Icewine from Niagara vineyards,” said publicist Stephen Murdoch.
   Festival organizer Anthony Annunziata said visitors can enjoy wines from some 20 wineries paired with savoury dishes created by 10 of Niagara’s best restaurants and culinary masters.
   Jonesy and the Madhatters entertain on Friday, while U2 Tribute band Desire, Beatles tributers the Caverners and Sandy Vine and the Midnights perform on Saturday, and Soul Jam is featured on Sunday.

   If you go:
   Icewine festival event details are at niagaraicewinefestival.com; (905) 688-0212
   For information and ticket options for the convention centre event: IcewineFestivals.com; 1-800-656-0713


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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