Support local news? Donate to Niagara Now.Support local news? Donate to Niagara Now.
The Weather Network
Oct. 16, 2019 | Wednesday
Local News
Icy time for wine fest
Jami Godin and Devon Duc serve up extra chilly ice wine during the first weekend of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine Village. (Eunice Tang/Special)

Saturday’s flurry set a picturesque scene for this year’s Icewine Village, though numbers for the festival were down from previous years.

The festival, which celebrates local icewine and gourmet cuisine in the centre of Old Town, kicked off on Friday night with a fireworks display in Simcoe Park, and continued over the weekend on Queen Street.

With a snow covered street and frost forming on cups, this year’s event truly brought out the theme of ice — and the temperature stayed true to the message.

The frozen conditions and strong windchill made for a significant decline in attendance numbers.

The NOTL Winery Group which puts on the festival was expecting around 10,000, said Andrew Niven, who sits on the group board, but the turnout was closer to 2,000.

The weather is sort of a double-edged sword when it comes to the Icewine Village, Niven said.

Ideally, it should be cold enough that the ice sculptures don’t melt. The winery group spends around $35,000 on ice alone, he said, which can become “a pretty expensive puddle,” if it’s too warm. However if it’s too cold, people tend to stay indoors.

Last year warm temperatures caused the sculptures to melt fairly quickly. This year they’re expected to last for the second weekend.

Those who did turn up may have gotten a little rosy-cheeked for more than one reason. This year’s event is showcasing wine from 18 local wineries, and icewine-themed recipes by five local Signature Kitchen chefs.

Some of the items on this year’s menu include chorizo smokies with icewine mustard, chili mac-and-cheese, foie gras cannolis, charcuterie samples, octopus ball soup, beef and lamb pies, and vegan Thai coconut soup.

A lot of the foods are designed to compliment the wine and warm people up in the process.

“It’s a simple recipe, but it’s tasty,” said Jayson Driedger, sous chef at Zees, who was serving up a steaming hot tomato and basil soup.

Saturday was a busier day, said Sandra Bigford, junior sous chef at Hobnob, but by Sunday afternoon she had only served food to seven customers.

Niven said this year’s festival was a bit different, with the village portion remaining for both weekends. In previous years they only left one tent up for the second weekend.

Niven said he thinks it will work out nicer for people who miss the first week but hear of it after.

The event is a one-of-a-kind chance to showcase the town’s diverse icewine culture, Niven said, and that’s why organizers keep alcohol sales to just icewine, while other festivals have started to include beer and regular wine.

Keeping it to just icewine helps to not “dilute the experience,” Niven said, and makes the festival — the first one in Niagara — stand out among the rest.

The event also sees live music, famously performed by NOTL’s Icewine Festival Band, and street performances by The Ben Show, as well as grand ice sculptures, which the festival has become well-known for.

The whole experience, as Niven said, is “just truly Niagara-on-the-Lake.”

Locals Lincoln Westman and Megan Sentineal were out Sunday afternoon for a tour through the village. Neither seemed bothered by the cold.

The second weekend festival will run Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event is part of the Niagara Icewine Festival, which runs from Jan. 11 to 27.

A full list of events can be found at niagarawinefestival.com.

For a full photo gallery check out The Lake Report’s Facebook page.

f4033d7793009a4053c4497d8eccc3d53dc2dca8:9ae474a5238dafdd25203fbf21da363fcfcea95a