Niagara Icewine Festival: Sip, Savour & Indulge in Everything Icewine

Niagara Icewine Festival: Everything You Need To Know :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

The Niagara Region is not only a tourist mecca thanks to the beauty of Niagara Falls but also because of the abundance of wine. There are more wineries in Niagara than you can visit in one weekend! Many of them also dabble in the realm of icewine. As Canada’s largest producer of this liquid gold, it won’t come as a surprise to find out that there’s a festival all about it! If you’re a fan, you won’t want to miss the Niagara Icewine Festival every January.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links where if you make a purchase, I may receive a kickback at no extra cost to you. It helps keep IBB alive so thank you!

Tasting Glass of Riesling in Front of Fire Place in Niagara-on-the-Lake :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

A Delicious Glass of Riesling Icewine Just Waiting to be Enjoyed!

What is Icewine? How is Icewine Made?

Before we begin, you might be wondering what is icewine. A dessert wine, icewine (also spelt ice wine) is produced by harvesting grapes while they’re still frozen on the vine. While the water content freezes, the sugars and other solids do not which creates a more concentrated juice. These grapes are then pressed, resulting in a small amount of liquid creating a concentrated, very sweet wine. Unlike other dessert wines, grapes are frozen before they’re fermented in icewine.

Icewine production is actually a risky business as the grapes need to be harvested in a timely matter when the conditions are perfect. If the grapes don’t freeze before they rot, the whole lot can be lost! Icewine grapes need a ‘hard freeze’ of at least -8C or lower to occur once the grapes have ripened. This means icewine grapes may be on the vine for months before the harvesting date. However, if the grapes are too frozen (yes, that’s a thing!) then no juice can be extracted… meaning no icewine.

You might be wondering if wineries can artificially freeze the grapes. In Canada, it is law that the grapes must freeze naturally to be considered icewine. This is the case in Austria, Germany and the United States as well. In other countries, some winemakers use a mechanical freezing technique called cryoextraction. This simulates the winter frost so these winemakers can harvest the grapes sooner.

While icewine originated in Germany, Canada is the world’s largest producer. We produce more than the other countries combined! Since Niagara produces approximately 90% of Canada’s icewine, it’s no wonder there’s a festival dedicated to Niagara icewine.

Tents and People in the Niagara Icewine Village :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

It Was a Snowy Weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake!

Niagara Icewine Festival

The Niagara Icewine Festival has grown since its humble beginnings a quarter of a century ago. Now spanning three weekends in January, it consists of a number of events. Every year more is added so plan to return again and again!

Discovery Pass

Similar to the Niagara Wine Festival (formerly known as Grape and Wine), you can purchase a discovery pass. This gives you 6 food and wine pairings to use at participating wineries across the last three weekends in January. Each pairing is specific to the winery so you’ll want to do your research in advance! While the participating wineries can vary, the majority of the wineries join in the fun every year. Discovery passes are $55 plus tax and can be purchased online or at any participating winery. If you have someone who is looking to participate responsibly, a designated driver’s pass is available for $45 so they can enjoy the eats along with a non-alcoholic alternative at each stop.

INSIDER TIP: Unsure how you’re going to get around from winery to winery? Grab your tickets for the Discovery Pass schedule! Running Saturdays and Sundays on a predetermined schedule, you can hit a few predetermined wineries in either Niagara-on-the-Lake or the Niagara Benchlands and not worry about transportation. Read more here.

If you’re not planning on staying the weekend or only have a day to enjoy the wineries in Niagara, it can be difficult to enjoy 6 food and wine pairings responsibly. New for 2024, you can purchase a mini discovery pass which gives you 3 food and wine pairings for just $30! There is also a designated driver option for $25.

Lindsay with a Glass of Wine in Hand Overlooking a Vineyard :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Enjoying a Glass of Wine Along with the Views at Fielding Estates in Niagara

Special Events

As you can see, the Niagara Icewine Fest has a number of moving parts. Every year new events are being added to repertoire giving you more ways to celebrate icewine! Here are a few more special events to keep an eye out for.

The Cool as Ice Gala is a celebration of the region’s top icewines paired with sensational culinary creations crafted by a variety of incredible chefs from across the region. While it’s held inside at the Power Station, you’ll be stepping into a winter wonderland of ice sculptures, interactive icewine-themed activities and more! Plus you’ll have access to Niagara Parks’ newest attraction, The Tunnel, for a unique view of the falls this winter. This is a fancy affair so if you’re looking for an excuse to dress up, this is the place to go with your gown and tux in tow.

There is also Sparkle & Ice which celebrates Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries as talented mixologists craft unique icewine cocktails. This spirited competition depends on you as attendees vote for their favourite to crown the title of best cocktail! As you sip on your beverage, enjoy live entertainment, fireworks, a photo booth and more all inside one of the gorgeous Old Courthouse ballrooms in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

While the above events are ticketed, you can enjoy a more casual experience by visiting the Outlets of Niagara. Here they’re kicking off the festival with their Ice Bar at the Outlet during the first weekend of the Icewine Festival! Sample local culinary delights, enjoy live entertainment, snap photos of the stunning ice sculptures and, of course, sip on icewine. It’s a great way to enjoy an afternoon in Niagara!

Chilled Bucket of Icewine Bottles in Niagara-on-the-Lake :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Two of the Wineries Represented in the Niagara Icewine Village

Niagara Icewine Village

Are you looking to enjoy a number of icewines from wineries across the region all in one place? What if I told you there are a number of delicious foodie treats too? If this sounds right up your alley, head to downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake for the Niagara Icewine Village.

Hundreds of visitors converge across two weekends for Canada’s original icewine festival! Enjoy the gorgeous views of historic NOTL as Queen Street from Regent to Picton is transformed into a pedestrian mall of tents and fire pits. While in previous years they’ve used a token system, this year you pay as you go! That’s right, no more tokens to drop or lose, just tap your card at every stop and enjoy the delicious eats, treats and icewine at your fingertips.

INSIDER TIP: If you’ve attended the icewine fest before, bring your glass. They’re the same glasses so you can use that $5 towards a sample instead!

Take a walk through the event to check out all of the offerings as they change from year to year. Whether you gravitate more to red or white, I highly recommend using this as an opportunity to sample something new. You just might be surprised at what you’ll discover! 

The big names such as Inniskillin and Konzelmann always bring something incredible to sample, though don’t miss out on some of the lesser-known wineries in Niagara. I’m looking forward to sampling from Byland Estates Winery as well as Queenston Mile Vineyard as they’re new names to me. Plus the Niagara College Teaching Winery is always up to something fun so make sure to stop by while hanging out in the icewine village!

Hand Holding Niagara Icewine Fest Glass and Potato Gnocchi :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

Some Eats I Enjoyed During My Very First Visit to the Niagara Icewine Village back in 2017

Don’t forget to save a few tokens for some eats. You won’t be able to resist once you smell what’s cooking! Chances are you’ll recognize a few of the restaurants as several Niagara-on-the-Lake staples have a station set up which I love. This allows you to test them out before committing to a full meal which I always love! Plus each dish is warm and comforting which will keep you nice and toasty no matter the temperatures as the icewine village runs rain, snow or shine!

While you can do this as a day trip, I highly recommend staying over and making a weekend of it! There are so many things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake alone plus Niagara Falls is a short drive south. In all honesty, winter is my favourite time to visit. Whatever you choose to do, please enjoy the festival responsibly. Have a designated driver or call a taxi, Uber or Lyft so that everyone makes it home safe and sound! 

Lindsay Holding Glass of Icewine at the Niagara Icewine Festival :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

I Can’t Help but Smile When There’s So Much Fun to be Had at the Niagara Icewine Festival!

Make it a Weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake

As I said, there is so much to see and do in the area that it’s easy to make a weekend of it! Here are some ideas of things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake on a winter weekend:

  • Expand your wine weekend by winery-hopping at some of the best wineries in the Niagara Region
  • Pay a visit (or just admire) one of the oldest hotels in Ontario, the Prince of Wales
  • Treat yourself to a spa day at one of the beautiful hotels in town
  • Do a little shopping at one of the adorable establishments in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Visit one of the historic sites in NOTL like the Niagara Apothecary, Fort Mississauga National Historic Site, Fort George National Historic Site and the Butler’s Barracks National Historic Site
  • Hit up the outdoor skating rink at Wayne Gretzky Estates
  • Go chase some of the beautiful waterfalls across the Niagara Region
  • Take in the views along the Niagara Parkway
  • Head into Niagara Falls for some winter fun (don’t miss out on my insider tips for Niagara Falls!)
  • Or head to my post about all the incredible things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake for even more ideas!
Front Entrance of Niagara-on-the-Lake's Prince of Wales Hotel in Winter :: I've Been Bit! Travel Blog

The Prince of Wales Hotel Always Looks Elegant No Matter the Season!

If you’re not sure where to stay, I highly recommend the Cobblestone Bed and Breakfast. Shelley is a wonderful host and she’ll make you feel right at home. Out of the kindness of her heart, she upgraded me during my stay to ensure I was warm over the chilly winter weekend. And no, she had no idea I was a blogger! It just shows how caring and thoughtful she is. Book your stay at the Cobblestone Bed and Breakfast or take a look and see what others have to say about their experience. If it’s booked during your visit, take a look at the map below for additional Niagara-on-the-Lake accommodation options.

Missed Out on the Icewine Fun?

This is a time-sensitive event so if you’re reading this once January has come and gone, don’t be discouraged! You can still enjoy Icewine all year round by visiting many of the wineries across the Niagara Region. Here’s a list of some of the Niagara wineries with icewine:

  • Château des Charmes
  • Inniskillin Wines
  • Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery
  • Konzelmann Estate Winery
  • Lakeview Cellars
  • Peller Estates Winery
  • Pillitteri Estates
  • PondView Estate Winery
  • Reif Estates
  • Small Talk Vineyards
  • Southbrook Organic Vineyards
  • Stratus Vineyards
  • Strewn Winery
  • Trius Winery

Additionally, there are a number of events and festivals that happen throughout the year! Seriously though, this is a destination you’ll come back to again and again, no matter what time of the year it is.

Looking for More Things to Do in Niagara?
Experience Canada’s Largest Light Festival This Winter
30+ Incredible Things to Do in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Don’t Miss These FREE Things to Do in Niagara Falls
Insider Tips for Visiting Niagara Falls From a Local
Top 5 Ways to Experience the Niagara Gorge
Indoor Things to Do in Niagara Falls on a Rainy Day
See Where Nature Can Be Enjoyed By All at the Heartland Forest
Enjoy a Glass at The Best Wineries in Niagara
Don’t Miss This Self-Guided Tour of Vineland’s Wineries
Check Out The Best Hiking Trails in St Catharines
Stretch Your Legs with These Top Hiking Trails in Niagara Falls
Check Out the Epic Trails Along the Niagara River at the Niagara Glen
You Don’t Want to Miss These Top Hiking Trails in Niagara
Chase Some Waterfalls Across the Niagara Region
Hike Through Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara’s Largest Park

Things to Do in Port Colborne, Niagara’s Ship Shape City
Plan a Spring Visit to See the Cherry Blossoms in Niagara

Thank you to the Wineries of Niagara for giving me a media pass for the Niagara Icewine Village. Everything else I paid for out of pocket. As always, I only recommend what I fully believe in! Additionally, this post contains affiliate links where I may receive a kickback at no extra cost to you. Read more in IBB’s disclaimer and privacy policy.

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  1. Josy A

    January 25, 2020

    You know, icewine is one of my favourite gifts to take back to friends and family back in the UK. We don’t have anything quite like it. Great tip about the Discovery pass…although as you tried so many, did you end up buying lots of bottles?

  2. Kay

    January 27, 2020

    You had me at dessert wine! I had no idea Niagara had so many vineyards! I’m so used to thinking of that area as frozen tundra haha. Thanks for teaching me something new! I’ll have to make my way up there for this festival!

  3. Stephanie

    January 28, 2020

    I’ve never heard of icewine!! Now I’m so excited for a road trip to Canada. I’ll have to make it up there for this event one year.

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