Ice Ice Baby! A Sparkling Re-Cap of the Niagara Icewine Festival & Winter WineFest

You know that 2018 is off to a great start when you kick off the year with one of the most glamorous wine experiences in Ontario – the Niagara Icewine Gala! Part of a broader array of events, the Icewine Gala showcases Canada’s largest wine export: Icewine! ☃️💖

Some would say that Icewine is what put Canadian wine on the map… and we certainly agree! Our country has a winter-hearty reputation for a reason. From the venerable toque, to ice hockey, to curling – embracing the winter season is a huge part of our collective culture. So, it stands to reason that Icewine (a dessert wine made from grapes frozen on the vine) is an easy (and delicious!) concept for the local and international market to understand, celebrate and consume with confidence. Canada’s climate is cool, and so… Icewine makes perfect sense!

We have a handful of people to thank for the predominance of Icewine – and, following in its footsteps – other premium Canadian wines. Front and centre in accolades is Karl Kaiser, one of two founders of Inniskillin Winery. A Canadian wine icon, Karl’s vision, passion and experience is what brought Ontario wine to the world stage. Like Robert Mondavi’s contributions to Napa, Karl – and founding partner Donald Ziraldo – brought Ontario’s wine industry to the forefront. Helping to drive a local wine industry built on Vitis Vinifera grapes tended to and crafted in the old world style, Karl was thinking about terroir in Ontario way before it was en vogue. Without pioneers like Karl, we would not be here today.

It should come as no surprise that Icewine, thanks to visionaries like Karl, is universally celebrated in Ontario, Canada and across the world. So it is with heavy hearts that we reflect on the passing of Dr. Kaiser in late 2017. His impact on the Ontario wine industry, and the legacy he leaves behind will live on forever.

We were honoured to take part in the 2018 Icewine Gala on Friday January 12, 2018 at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls! The evening included the best of the best from over 35 wineries in Niagara.

From Icewine to Late Harvest wines, to beautiful sparkling and premium red and whites, we were spoiled for choice and treated to an absolutely phenomenal evening that showcased the best of what Ontario, as a cool climate wine region, has to offer!

This year, we were also totally blown away by the food! With a “cross Canada” focus, the savoury bites and desserts – made by top chefs in the region – provided the perfect accompaniment to the premium VQA wines. From Petite Tourtiere (French Canadian Meat Pie) to Prairie braised brisket to Pacific and Atlantic sourced seafood and the universally loved Nanaimo bar, we couldn’t have been more pleased to sip and savour so many delicious treats paired wonderfully with the beautiful Ontario wines. 😍

In addition to the Icewine Gala, we also had the pleasure of taking part in the Twenty Valley Winter WineFest in the quaint village Jordan, Ontario. What is more Canadian than sipping wine in the snow? We honestly have no idea!

Much like the gala, but in a completely different context (we’re not wearing bowties and dress shoes outdoors in January, let us tell you that much!), the Winter WineFest featured amazing food and premium VQA wines.

And, while some might dive into a mulled wine or red wine (of which there were many great examples), we Sparkling Winos went for what makes us feel radiant: bubbles!

We had the absolute pleasure of tasting some great examples of Ontario bubbly – from Back 10 Cellar’s “Smitten”, to Henry of Pelham’s “Cuvée Catharine” to 13th Street’s Brut Rosé. Who says you can’t enjoy a splash of sparkling in the cold? 😉 We certainly did! Fun fact: mittens will keep your hands warm, while the winter weather will ensure your sparkling is at the perfect temperature. #CanadianWineFridge 😆

Not the biggest sparkling fan? No worries… (we’re only slightly offended). 😜 There was plenty of amazing local Icewine, red wine and white wine to enjoy!

Along with ice sculptures, live music, a fashion show, a one pot cook off featuring Toronto’s own Susur Lee, and a Photo Booth straight out of our dreams (in an Airstreamer, no less)! The Icewine Gala and Winter WineFest will definitely be part of our annual traditions.

Be sure to check out Niagara Wine Festivals and Niagara’s Twenty Valley online and follow along with their social channels for updates on next year’s festivals. And until then, visit Wine Country Ontario and taste some amazing local Icewine’s (and sparkling)! 😉🍾