Monday, January 24, 2011

Raise a finger-numbing ice cold glass!

Okay, so this is not exactly a Toronto event, however I'm sure if I had polled the bundled up visitors at Niagara's annual Ice Wine Festival this weekend, many of them would have been fellow Torontonians so I figured it was fair to include it here.
I actually left the warmth of my parents' home, along with my mom, sister and daughter for a frosty afternoon in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake (-28 with wind chill), to sample some of the region's pride and wine. For $30.00, I got a commemorative glass and nine tokens to use for either ice wine samples (2 tokens) or food samples (1 token) from a few of the participating restaurants. I sampled a Cabernet Franc ice wine from Cattail Creek which was nice and an Ice cherry (similar to ice wine but made with cherries instead of grapes) which was delicious. We also tried some of the food samples, like pulled pork infused with ice wine, hot chocolate with ice wine whipped cream, and a little chocolate dessert cup with nuts and ice wine.
The Niagara region is one of the few places in the world where ice wine can be produced because of the fact that it's so cold. The grapes are left on the vine until temperatures drop to below -21 when they are picked and pressed. The sugars and other dissolved solids don't freeze, allowing for a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grape. The result is a more concentrated, very sweet dessert wine. Because the process is very labour intensive and produces small amounts of wine, ice wines tend to be quite expensive.
Historically speaking, the first ice wine was actually produced in Germany in 1794, by accident. "Eiswein" is still produced in there, but currently Ontario produces 75 percent of the ice wine on the market and many of its wineries have won international awards for their products.

We also got to see Guiness Book of World Records newest entry for "the largest wine flute". Thirty-eight Ontario wineries poured 27 litres of their best ice wine into a specially made four foot tall wine glass. I wonder how that tasted...and who got to drink it?

In less than an hour, all my tokens were done and I could no longer feel my fingers so we left those hardier than us to enjoy themselves and headed back for the warmth of the indoors. What can I say, -21 might be great for ice wine grapes, but not for this ice wine drinker!

For more information about the Niagara Ice Wine Festival visit their website:

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