By: Waheeda Harris

The annual Niagara Icewine Festival is a celebration of the bounty of grapes that makes the award-winning dessert wine. The festival runs on weekends in January.

For winemakers in the Niagara Region winter isn’t a time of reflection — it’s harvest time for Icewine.

Produced in Ontario since 1984, the province has become as well known for its Icewine as maple syrup — a sweet by-product of bitter winter temperatures.

Ontario VQA Icewines are made with Vidal Blanc, Riesling or Cabernet Franc grapes, with smaller batches now made with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewurztraminer.

The grapes are protected from birds in the last months before harvest and then it’s time for patience, for the grapes to hit the 35 Brix of sugar needed for this dessert wine. In December, January and February, Icewine grapes are poised for picking, an old-fashioned by hand harvest that occurs when the temperatures hit the sweet spot of between minus-10 and minus-12 Celsius degrees (about 10 Fahrenheit degrees).

The annual Niagara Icewine Festival, with tastings and events held throughout January, is a perfect time to experience wine country as well as taste some amazing culinary creations by local chefs.

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