BY KAREN CLEVELAND
If you thought that maple syrup was Canada’s most valued liquid gold, think again. Icewine, the dessert wine crafted from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine, inspires fervent devotion that’s distilled each winter at the Niagara Icewine Festival. The 19th annual celebration of the sweet, amber-hued alcohol started earlier this month, but there’s still time to take in all the oenophilic fun on its final weekend, January 24 to 26. Bundle up and get ready to enjoy some of the region’s award-winning vintages while partaking in its warming hospitality.
Visit Winterfest in The Square
A few minutes drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake proper, the city of St. Catharines hosts a free gathering Friday evening (January 24) in its historic Market Square. Check out the farmer’s market, live entertainment, local food trucks and, of course, a stellar selection of VQA wines.
Drop by Peller Estates’ Backyard
Chef Jason Parsons has had a ball crafting an icewine-focused menu at Peller Estates Winery. Sample icewine hot chocolate and icewine suckling pig, then finish up by roasting icewine marshmallows over an outdoor fire. Reservations are not required, but an appetite is.
Learn About Soil Over Pumpkin Pie
The vineyard at Coyote’s Run Estate straddles two very distinct soil types, allowing the winery to create its Red Paws wines (from vines grown in iron-rich red clay loam) and Black Paw wines (from, you guessed it, darker soil laden with organic matter). Let veteran winemaker David Sheppard teach you some geology basics over spiced pumpkin pie paired with its 2009 Riesling/Vidal icewine, a rare gem with only 110 cases produced.
Enjoy a Consummate Locavore Meal
Settled into its new NOTL location after years in Port Dalhousie, Treadwell is the perfect spot to seek shelter from the Icewine Festival’s bustle. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the restaurant’s farm-to-table menu is fresh, simple and jaw-droppingly delicious. The thoughtful wine list boasts some fantastic small-batch producers that aren’t represented at the LCBO.
Have the Run of the Region
While you can pop in and out of festival-affiliated wineries and restaurants, investing in a Discovery Pass offers exceptional value. The $40 pass is valid Friday through Sunday and entitles its wielder to eight food-and-wine experiences offered by a selection of more than 40 participating venues—from an onion soup and Riesling icewine pairing at Cattail Creek Estate Winery to spit-roasted porchetta with apple icewine sauce at Reif Estate.