Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – The temperature has to drop to – 8° to -12° Celsius for three days, then late at night the naturally-frozen grapes of the vineyards of Niagara are harvested by hand to produce the world-famous Icewine. Because of the freezing, the juices and flavours are highly concentrated. It can take a whole vine to produce a single bottle of the rich, sweet desert wine often referred to as liquid gold. The grapes are pressed, fermented for several weeks and then aged in barrels for several months, before being bottled and shipped all over the world.
Each year during the last two weeks of January wineries and tourism industry venues along the Niagara Wine Route (such as the charming little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake – the first capital of Ontario) host the world’s largest Icewine Festival. Visitors enjoy ice carvings, winter tours, roasting chestnuts, and even sipping the special sweet wine at an outdoor bar made of ice. The Niagara Wine Route links more than half of the more than 60 wineries in the Niagara region. Tour companies sometimes offer opportunities to watch the midnight harvest, and wine tasting is possible year-round at many of the local wineries. The Niagara Wine Festival, held in late September, which features more than 100 events including tours, tastings and wine seminars, draws more than a half million visitors annually.
From Buffalo cross the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie and then drive north along the scenic parkway that hugs the Niagara River and passes the world-famous Falls. Winston Churchill called this ‘The Prettiest Sunday Drive in the World’. The drive route stretches for 56 km (35 miles) from Fort Erie, past the Falls and to Fort George, which is just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake. It features parkland and historic sites, and a recreational trail. The Niagara Region, which is also 90-minute drive from Toronto, is known for more than 60 wineries. Many are open to the public for tours and tastings and some feature restaurants.
Quick Tips: A special wine route that will help you explore the area is marked by blue road signs with white grapes on them. Consider including a visit to the Shaw Festival – the second largest repertoire theatre company in North America.
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Regional Municipality, Ontario