Warming up to winter at the Niagara Icewine Festival
If there’s one bonus to staying in the northern clime of Toronto Ontario, Canada in mid-January rather than heading south, it’s the opportunity to attend the Niagara Icewine Festival and indulge in icewine, gourmet cuisine and spectacular winter scenery of Wine Country Ontario. Sure, it can get bone-chillingly cold but that’s just a reminder of what it means to be a real Canadian and is all the more reason to warm up with some VQA icewine.
In fact, when researching a story for MasterCard’s Priceless Cities, I enjoyed the Niagara Icewine Festival so much I decided to buy a warmer parka and return again every year. Check out my story on Chill out at the Niagara Icewine Festival: To Do List for an Unforgettable Winter Weekend for a rundown on what not to miss.
Here are a few of the highlights of what to do at the Niagara Icewine Festival from January 12-28,2018.
Xerox Icewine Gala at Niagara Icewine Festival
This swanky evening (taking place on January 8, 2018) is an opportunity to sample rare icewines, dance to live music, indulge in fabulous cuisine and gawk at Niagara Falls lit up in its technicolour glory. The event features pouring stations from at least 30 different Niagara wineries. They are pouring icewines as well as red and wine VQA wines. Some of my favourite must-visit pouring stations include Pillitteri Estates Winery for their Reserve Vidal Icewine and Peller for their Andrew Peller Signature Series Cabernet Franc.
The Xerox Icewine Gala happens at the Fallsview Casino Resort so if you stay at the Hilton Fallsview you can wear your sparkliest clothing and walk through the handy connecting link without having to wear your winter boots and parka.
Best Hotel at the Niagara Icewine Festival
When the Xerox Icewine Gala wraps up, you can even pop into the casino and try your hand at the slot machines. I’m notorious for losing money as fast as I can pull the slot machine handle but the flashing lights, opulent architecture and ching-ching of everyone else winning big bucks does make an exciting wrap-up to the night.
Twenty Valley Winter Winefest
You’ll want to bundle up for this event held in the pretty town of Jordan Village, conveniently located just off the QEW, between January 12-14th. If you haven’t been to the Twenty Valley area before, it’s worth staying an extra night so you can hike to the pretty Balls Falls waterfalls, explore the quaint shops and make several stops at the Upper Canada Cheese Company until you’ve eaten so many free samples of artisanal cheese that they ask you to leave. (Stock up on Niagara Gold – a buttery French-style semi-firm cheese). Once you arrive in Jordan, you’ll be pleased to see handy shuttle buses to take you from the parking lots to the festival itself. We parked at the Jordan Firehall at 3763 19th Street Jordan and walked in an attempt to wear off a few calories from the previous evening’s gala.
Once there, make a quick stop to purchase your drink and food tokens (and a photo-op with one of the ice sculptures) before heading into the warming tent. Tokens are a bargain as most items cost just two or three tokens. With 25 food and wine stations to choose from, it’s tough to narrow it down to just a few but last year, we indulged in preserved peaches, ate wood-fired pizza and sampled a variety of delicious VQA icewines.
How to Use Your Niagara Discovery Pass
To wrap up the balance of January, you can continue your Niagara Icewine Festival celebrations with the purchase of a Discovery Pass, a magical passport that allows you to visit as many wineries as you can pack into a weekend on a variety of wine routes through the Niagara Wine Country Region. Each passport offers a deliciously inventive food and wine pairing ( there are non-alcoholic choices for drivers) at participating wineries. For example, in 2018 one stop at Megalomaniac Winery on the Discovery Passport gets you a sample of icewine and a honey infused drizzle over top of a two-bite goat cheese, apple and pecan tart. It pairs beautifully with their 2014 Coldhearted Riesling Icewine. The best way to do the Niagara Icewine Festival is to plan your stops and driving route in advance based on the wines and foods you want to try on the Discovery Pass Listings
What to Eat at the Niagara Icewine Festival
Your Discovery Pass Gives you access to some delicious food. Some of the exciting combos in the culinary line-up in the past have included include Chicken and Waffles, spread with Riesling Icewine Butter at Iniskillin Winery as well as the crowd-pleasing fave, the opportunity to roast an icewine marshmallow over an open fire at Pellar Estates. I had a hard time tearing myself away from the cheesy chile con queso nachos topped with crumbled bacon and blue cheese at Fielding Winery or the Late Harvest Vidal tucked inside a Chocolate-dipped Strawberry Cup at Pondview Estate Winery. In 2018, my top choice would be Creekside Estates to try their Icewine-infused baby bratwurst topped with your choice of Icewine sauerkraut or spicy mustard.
Assuming you don’t try to get to Niagara from Toronto in the middle of rush hour (4-6 pm), it should take you no more than 90 minutes to arrive in the heart of Niagara Wine Country.
Here are some links to help you plan your trip.
Niagara Icewine Festival Cost: Discovery Passes are sold at $45 plus HST each and contain eight experience vouchers valued at $10 each, redeemable at participating wineries.
Niagara Falls Hilton Fallsview: Located in the Fallsview area, this modern tower is situated overlooking the falls and is ideal for exploring the parkway and natural attractions ( or going to the Fallsview Casino). It’s not close to the Clifton Hill arcade zone so if you’re looking to hit up funzone attractions like dinosaur mini-golf and ferris wheels, be prepared to drive. If not, you’ll be happy to be in the peaceful part of town.
Brockamour Manor B & B: Stay at this historic guest house and you’ll be tempted to start browsing real estate listings so you can own your own piece of classic Niagara-on-the-Lake architecture. Built in 1809, it’s well-located on King Street just a few steps away from everything at the Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town that’s a scenic 20-minute drive along the Niagara Parkway from Niagara Falls. The rates are reasonable and breakfast is extra-special. Read a full review at Icewine and Cycling at Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Discovery Pass Tickets: Buy tickets and plan your route at the Discovery Pass Listings Page.
Interested in more news about the Niagara Icewine Festival? Follow me during the event on Twitter and Instagram at @atastefortravel.
For more ideas on how to enjoy Ontario in the winter or summer, check out these posts on:
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