Chilling Out at Niagara Icewine Festival
Icewine is one of my favorite treats. I adore the sweet, syrup-like adult beverage and was elated when a trip to Buffalo last January coincided with the Niagara Icewine Festival.
Conditions weren’t exactly ideal for a winter festival, it rained. This meant standing in the rain sipping icewine while watching ice sculptures melt and puffy, white snow dissolve into slush.
Not all the festivities take place outdoors and although sipping icewine in the middle of winter seems a little crazy, it isn’t. Icewine is made from grapes which have frozen in the winter temperatures. So just like the grapes, why not enjoy a Canadian winter while tasting icewine?
During the visit with my sister, brother-in-law, and friend Annette, we visited the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village, which was about an hour’s drive from Buffalo. It was an area down the main street with small tents sheltering representatives from wineries and local restaurants. Ice carvings dotted the area and a carver gave a demonstration on the chilly sculpting – which was done with a chainsaw.
Admission into the village was free and tokens were available for purchase to be used in exchange for icewine tastings and delicious samplings of food.
After we each spent our $20, we visited a few wineries where we enjoyed more wine tastings. We visited Lailey Vineyard (nice little boutique winery), Caroline Cellars (my favorite – they offered tasty bites of food with each tasting and the staff were extremely friendly), Cattail Creek Estate Winery (minimalist winery but the fondue was fun), and Inniskillin (although delicious, this was the most sophisticated and largest winery we visited. It was run like a machine and lacked intimacy between winemaker and visitor). There are more than two dozen wineries to visit during the festival. So many wineries, so little time.
2011 Niagara Icewine Festival
This year’s Niagara Icewine Festival is Jan. 14 – 30, 2011, and includes all sorts of events including a gala, food and tastings, and vacation packages. Check out the schedule of events to plan your visit. Remember, if traveling from the United States, you’ll need a passport to cross the border into Canada.