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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
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Peller Estates' Ten Below Icewine Lounge redesigned and reopened
Ray Johnston, retail and experience manager of Peller Estates, holding a bottle of icewine in the Ten Below Icewine Lounge.(Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

While icewine can be found all over the region, only Peller Estates Winery and Restaurant offer tastings all year in the same freezing temperatures the grapes are harvested at -10 C.

Peller Estates built its Ten Below Icewine Lounge in 2015 to offer that unique experience to visitors. On March 30 the lounge was quietly re-opened after it was closed for less than a week for a complete overhaul and redesign, which happens every two years. The grand opening will take place May 4 for the winery’s wine club members, but tours can be booked any time and run every day.

Ray Johnston, retail and experience manager of Peller Estates, said the room was built to provide an experience as unique as icewine itself.

“The idea of the room, the whole reason why we built it, was we want people to experience the crazy temperatures that we harvest icewine at.”

The room, which is actually a giant freezer, has evolved since it was first constructed four years ago. Initially, the space was an L shape with what was essentially a staging area at the entrance. Johnston said the area was included in the design because at the time, it was thought that the ice would melt if it wasn’t sectioned off properly. When it was time to rebuild and redesign the room two years later, he said the team discovered that wasn’t the case. The room was expanded to approximately 14 by 24 feet and can accommodate up to 25 people at a time. He said exact dimensions of the room vary depending on the thickness of the ice and how it is formed.

“It looks like an igloo on the outside, we have it all dolled up. But you go in and you’re surrounded by 30,000 pounds of ice.”

The bar is now made of ice, sculpted to look like a barrel with a wooden top. An ice-sculpted couch was also added, with the name Peller Estates carved into it, for a photo opportunity for visitors.

The room was built by Ice Culture, a company from Hensall, Ontario, which supplies ice and creates sculptures and displays all over the world.

Ice Culture returns to Peller Estates to maintain the room when needed, Johnston said, usually every six months. He said the room is completely re-done every two years.

The lounge was built when the winery decided it would begin hosting the Greatest Winery Tour. Johnston said the tour lives up to its name, adding that the marketing team at the winery informed him Peller Estates is the most visited winery in North America.

Visitors make their way through the estate tasting a variety of seasonal wines. The tour moves guests through the winery, starting outside in the celebration lounge with a glass of sparkling wine. Moving to the vines to taste a white wine while hearing about technical aspects of wine-making, the tour then continues to a barrel cellar surrounded by active barrels in different stages of aging for a tasting of red wine.

The finale of the tour is the Ten Below Icewine Lounge. Guests, draped in parkas, are invited to experience what Johnston calls the world’s best icewine in the temperature the grapes were harvested. It’s much more comfortable than you might think though, Johnston said, adding that the conditions are not the exact same. Harvesters experience wind and humidity along with the below freezing temperatures, often working at night.

Proud of the room, the only one of its kind in North American wineries, Johnston said he gives visitors a quick run-down of icewine and the tasting room, before sending them in for their sample.

“Once they get inside they’re caught up in taking pictures and looking at the room.”