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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Chilling out with icewine in Niagara

   One-Tank Trip for Dec. 27/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time to chill out again in Niagara Wine Country.
   The colder the better for this annual party in the dead of winter that celebrates icewine.
   The dessert wine renowned for its intense flavours, rich bouquet and smoothness is something that’s rivalling maple syrup as a Canadian iconic product around the world.
Enjoying a glass of wine at one of the Niagara Icewine Festival events.
    For three weekends in January, the Niagara Icewine Festival will mark its 20th year.
   “The festival offers plenty for every taste – from elegant gala evenings to irresistible wine-and-food pairings and outdoor activities from exploring ice street villages to marshmallow-roasting along the famed wine route,” said Kimberly Hundertmark, executive director of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.

   That’s cool
   Icewine is produced from grapes that have been left on the vine after the fall harvest.
   Once the temperature dips to -8C or lower, the frozen grapes are handpicked and pressed immediately to carefully release a thick, rich, yellow-gold liquid, highly concentrated in natural sugars and acidity.

Vidal grapes are picked only when frozen.

   Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold to ensure an icewine crop in most years, with 60 wineries now involved.
   Icewine is quite pricy as fruit left on the vine is vulnerable to rot, ravaging winds, hail, hungry birds and animals as well as being labour-intensive and producing small yields.

   Party time
   Things heat up as the celebration begins on Jan. 9 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Xerox Icewine Gala: 20 Years of Red and Gold at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls.
   Called “Niagara’s hottest wine and culinary ticket,” the Grand Hall is transformed into “an evening of luxury and opulence.”
   Those attending the formal event can sample a wide selection of icewine and table wines paired with “culinary delights” created by the casino’s chefs.
   “Live entertainment, dancing and an evening of the best wine and food Niagara has to offer sets the tone for a weekend to remember,” Hundertmark said. Tickets cost $185.
   The Discovery Pass touring program along the Wine Route is offered Fridays through Sundays for three weekends from Jan. 9.
   Pass holders can enjoy eight wine-and-culinary pairings at some 35 wineries.
Glasses of wine can be paired with a large selection of sweet treats at the Niagara Icewine Gala. (Jim Fox photo)
   “From hearty chilis and savoury soups to the sweet treats paired with VQA icewines and table wines, the experiences are sweet, savoury and spicy,” Hundertmark said.
   Passes are $40 while there is a Driver’s Discovery Pass for designated drivers to indulge in non-alcoholic mocktails and culinary offerings. Experiences are $10 each without a pass, unless otherwise stated.

   Wine happenings
   Joining the party with coinciding festivals are Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Twenty Valley wineries:
   Niagara Falls: The events from Jan. 23 to 25 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre feature icewine and table wines from across Niagara Region.
   There will be food from local restaurants and chefs along with live entertainment. Admission is $10 and includes a souvenir glass.
   Niagara-on-the-Lake: The Icewine Festival starts on Jan. 16 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Sparkle & Ice with local icewinemakers and “inspired tastings” from the Signature Kitchen chefs.
   It happens at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Courthouse Grand Hall with live salsa entertainment and an official toast outdoors in the Icewine Village. Tickets are $95.
   The festival happens along historic Queen Street on Jan. 17 and 18, and 24 and 25. (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m., Sundays) Free admission; tokens sold for sampling.
   There will be the Flash & Panache Icewine Cocktail Competition on Jan. 17 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Queen Street and the Icebreakers’ Comedy Festival at local inns and eateries, Jan. 22 to 24.
   Twenty Valley (Jordan): Winter WineFest takes place Jan. 9 to 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Main Street.
   Sip and savour icewine, sparkling wines and red and whites from 30 wineries paired with offerings from local chefs.
   Chef Michael Smith will give food demonstrations and host a dinner and icewine brunch while there will be live entertainment throughout.
  A sample of icewine is poured at the Niagara Icewine Gala.
    Need to know
   For more information on all events: niagaraicewinefestival.com; (905) 688-0212
   Niagara-on-the-Lake: niagaraonthelake.com/icewine; (905) 468-1950
   Twenty Valley: 20valley.ca; (905) 562-363


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

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