The start of the year can be exciting for many as it means a new year filled with new adventures and experiences. For those of us around Niagara, it also means the coming of icewine! The Wineries of Niagara kicked off the Niagara Icewine Festival with a number of events from galas to tastings that were spread across the region. I decided to indulge this year at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine Village, held on Queen Street in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Set up right on the road, it turned Queen Street into somewhat of a pedestrian mall… which I’m a HUGE fan of. Tents were set where groups of wineries were side by side, showing their wines for all to try. First, you need to purchase a Niagara Icewine Festival glass along with tokens, which could be done at either entrance to the sectioned off area. Scattered between the wineries were also food stalls where you could try some of the wineries’ restaurants as they all featured icewine-infused recipes. The event was set up quite nicely as there were bars and tables made of ice, as well as some seating around heaters to warm up. However, I found some aspects of it to be a little… lackluster.
As I had been to the Niagara Wine Festival (formally known as Grape and Wine), I expected this event to be similar. The set up was quite similar, however I was a little thrown by the prices. At the wine festival in October, everything was on a token system and tokens were $3.25 a piece. The glass was 1 token, but if you brought your own glass (say from the year before) it would be waived. As for the wine, you could taste 2oz for 1 token and 4oz for 2 tokens. Food was also available and ranged from 1-3 tokens.
At the Icewine Festival, I was generally a little shocked at the prices. Before getting into it, I completely understand that icewine is more expensive than any Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. However, it was $5 for a glass which you HAD to purchase otherwise they wouldn’t serve you. If you had yours from last year, I’m not sure if the fee would be waived – I’m assuming it would be a similar rule. Then, tokens were $3 each instead which at first I thought was a plus but each tasting was 2 tokens for 1oz of icewine. Maybe it’s the fact that I still have a student budget mindset, but it seemed a little steep to me! The plus was that all food was 1 token, and it seems as though there were a number of treats that were worthy of $3. The gnocchi Robin and I tried from Peller Estates were absolutely mouthwatering! Another small thing that really could have improved the event would be to make sure all the heaters were on. When we went there was only one working!
Overall it was a great way to spend an afternoon, especially if you combine it with a visit to the town itself! There’s plenty of shops worth exploring. One you should never miss is Kurtz as they have fabulous confits, sauces and other culinary delicacies. They have samples so you can taste just how delicious their products are. I dare you to leave without buying something since it will take some major willpower to walk out empty handed!
The Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Village will be on for this weekend as well, but if I were to do it again I’d probably opt for a Discovery Pass like I did in November. For $40 you have access to a wine and food pairing at 35+ wineries in the Niagara Region. You can also use the pass over three weekends, so you can go hard one weekend or spread it out. If you do head to the village, I highly suggest trying Niagara College’s 2010 Deans List Savant Icewine. It was hands down the best of the five that I tried as it had extremely complex flavours. Make sure you savour it to enjoy the full flavour!
PS – don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win some travel inspiration designed by yours truly!