As a chill in the air and snowfall arrives just in time to usher in the Niagara Icewine Festival, excitement is heating up at NC’s Wine Visitor & Education Centre.
The Niagara College Teaching Winery, housed within the centre on the college’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, is one of about 30 area wineries participating in the event, to be held from Jan. 13 to 29. The festival is a chance for locals and tourists to pour in and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
InsideNC caught up with hospitality and events manager, Wine and Beer Operations Lorraine Snihur before the big event which celebrates this quintessential Canadian delight. Often called “liquid gold,” it’s been a part of the NC Teaching Winery from the very beginning.
How do you feel about the Niagara Icewine Festival?
It’s an amazing event that celebrates icewine. People just love icewine – it’s a draw, it’s sexy.
It’s great to see people realizing that there are so many things they can do with icewine. I like to see people come here as part of the Discovery Passport program and try our featured icewine along with a food pairing prepared by the CFWI. There will be hundreds of people coming in during the next couple of weekends.
The fact that all the wineries work together and promote each other and the industry as part of the festival is awesome.
Where can we find NCTW wines at the festival?
Our wines will be featured at many events.
Friday, January 13, 2012, Icewine Unveiled – At the Masquerade Gala held in the Grand Ballroom at the Fallsview Casino Resort from 8-11 p.m., we will be featuring the following wines: 2010 Dean’s List Prodigy, 2009 Dean’s List Cabernet Franc Icewine, 2009 Dean’s List Chardonnay, 2009 Dean’s List Cabernet Franc, and 2009 Dean’s List Pinot Noir.
Saturday, January 14, 2012, is the opening day of the Icewine Festival’s Discovery Passport Program which runs the remaining weekends in January from 11a.m.-5 p.m. Visitors will be flocking in to the Wine Visitor & Education Centre as we, along with participating wineries, offer an Icewine sample along with a food pairing. We are featuring our 2009 Dean’s List Cabernet Franc Icewine with Whole Wheat and Roasted Garlic Flan with Maple Rosemary Venison Mushroom Ragout, which is prepared by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute. Discovery Passports can be purchased at participating wineries or at the Niagara Wine Festival for $30 plus HST.
Saturday, January 14, 2012 is Winterfest in the Square, from 6 to 11 p.m. Admission is free, tokens available for purchase for wine and food samples. We will be featuring the following wines: 2010 Semi-Dry Riesling, 2008 Cabernet Franc, and 2010 Dean’s List Prodigy Icewine.
Weekends from Saturday Jan. 13 to 29 is Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Celebrations on historic Queen St. Many staff members and I will be attending.
From January 21 until the end of the month (or when it melts), NCTW will be featuring an ice sculpture that commemorates the Niagara-on-the-Lake War of 1812 Bicentennial. The sculpture will be right here at the Wine Visitor & Education Centre.
Saturday, January 28, 2012 will be the Wineries of NOTL Hockey Game at Ravine from 2-4 p.m. Winemakers and industry personnel – including NC’s wine technician Gavin Robertson – will lace up to compete in a friendly hockey game on the outdoor skating rink located at Ravine Vineyards. We will also be onsite to pour our delectable icewines. More details on this to come.
For a full list of events click here.
What’s your favourite part of the Niagara Icewine festival?
I really like the NOTL celebrations in the village because it’s so unique. There are ice sculptures throughout the village and music, different wineries all set up along the street. You’re out in the cold in downtown NOTL which is beautiful in itself. It’s wonderful to go to, even if you just get out for an hour or two.
Has the weather this year affected NC’s production of icewine?
I know that other vineyards have already picked their icewine but for us, we always wait for the students to come back to school in January because it’s such a big part of the experience. Last year, all the students were out there in the vineyards picking in the middle of the night – it was great. We just need a couple of cold days – for the weather to be consistent – so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Has the way we think of or use icewine changed over the years?
Icewine has changed so much over the years. It used to be known just as a dessert wine but now the chefs are using it for appetizers and entrees and people are using it for martinis – there are so many things to do with it.
Here at NC we’ve been doing icewine blends for the past couple of years as well. We have a great Vidal, Chardonnay and Riesling and a Savant Icewine that has six different varietals in it.
What’s the icewine scene like here in Niagara?
Since we’re cool climate viticulture, we are very, very fortunate to get the temperatures to make icewine around the region. If you go back 10 years in the industry, all anyone knew about us was icewine. But now we’re starting to come to the table with Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Francs, and Rieslings. We’re seeing our industry evolve and it’s really great.
Now we’ve got two icewine festivals in the region, the Niagara Icewine Festival and NC’s Decadance – our weekend of chocolate and icewine (Feb. 18). There’s going to be a lot of family events, a gala Sweet Dreams, A Night of Chocolate and Icewine, and some great seminars and presentations like the art of blending icewine.
I think it’s going to be even better than last year.