Frozen Wonders

I don’t know if it’s because I’m Canadian … if it’s because I lived in Niagara for a time … or simply the idea of living so close to something so majestic, BUT I LOVE NIAGARA FALLS, especially in the winter.

… seriously, NOT for people who hate cold

Seeing the falls after a good “arctic freeze” is totally amazing. This “typical summer tourist (bombardment) attraction” turns into this almost surreal, frozen, crisp sensation. The falls are still flowing over the thier edge, but Mother Nature is adding some real “texture” to this magnificient view of hers. The spraying mist freezing on EVERYTHING — so don’t stand still for too long, you too will start to form icicles on your winter parka, nose and eye-lashes. That hot cup of coffee you were carrying is now a naturally chilled “summer treat”.

Of course, my major perk for visiting in the winter is … LESS PEOPLE. You’ve actually got a chance to just stand there along the railing and admire the force of nature just steps away. You aren’t caught up in the “swarm of salmon swimming upstream” tourists pushing their way along the trails in the summer, and chances are you will not ba an “accidental” (??) photo-bomb in anyone’s pictures.

The day can pretty much be your own.

… lately at night

the Queen Victoria Park comes to life with the Annual Festival of Lights — this year taking place December 10-January 24, and traces the river paths all the way to the great Horsehoe Falls (and beyond). On the American side, Dufferin Island comes to life as well to capture the hearts of millions of visitors each year.

Besides the nightly illuminating of the snow-covered falls, FIREWORKS will light the sky everynight starting December 20 at 9pm with a BONUS explosion on New Years Eve, December 31 at midnight as well. I’ve never been to the Niagara New Years Eve celebration, but they say (and from what I’ve seen of it on TV), it’s fast becoming the second best place in “the colder” North America to bring in the New Year.

… the falls aren’t the only thing freezing!

“Eiswein”, pronounced “Ice Wine” is famously produced in the Niagara Wine Region

Everyone who knows me, knows (and go ahead, I am prepared for the comments) I like my wine chilled …. with ice-cubes preferred … EVEN RED (there, I admit it) WINE. So … when I first heard of these “ICE WINE FESTIVALS it was like “a calling”. MY kinda wine, in one of MY favourite places to visit, in MY favourite season (you see, many of these blogs are based around one of the first ones, “ALL ABOUT ME”).

Ice Wines are produced from grapes that at one point are “naturally” frozen while still on the vine and then picked. The production is actually regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) in Ontario, and just like the saying “no wine served before it’s time” …. well when it comes to Ice Wine, “no grape shall be picked until frozen at precisely 8C / 18F.” I can only imagine the continuous monitoring then the scramble to get the crop harvested as soon as possible — all for the pleasure of those (LIKE ME) who enjoy this sweeter, and sometimes referred to as … dessert wine.

…celebrating Ice Wine

The Niagara Wine Region invites everyone to come celebrate this frozen treat in numerous locations with several events. One of the more popular things to do is grab a “passport”. These “passports” grant you entry (either by tour group or on your own) into up to 12 wineries to sample their crop of the year. Aside the wine tasting, several of the wineries have “associated delights” to entice you.

Our last “passport” included 6 wineries, typically 2 samples of wine at each. With strict laws, food must be served at these (albeit very low pecentage) alcoholic “samplings”, so you may find a simple platter of cheese and crackers sitting out in a non-formal setting … or a chocolate fountain with strawberries for dipping … or head outside to make “Smores” over an open fire with champagne infused marshmallows … or a carved ice funnel (reminds me of the days of playing “Mouse Trap”) where you pour your wine through to be chilled to a precise temperature by the time it reaches your glass — or head back indoors for a tasting of a local chef’s soup of the day. We sampled a “Potato Leek Soup” that was SO DELICIOUS, and even though it sounds weird, it actually paired well with the wines.

I recently learned (and really must go to see this for myself), that PELLER ESTATES WINERY now has their own “10 BELOW ICEWINE LOUNGE” — reading about it gave me chills (of anticipation). Picture a room made of crystal clear ice blocks where you MUST wear a parka — YEAR ROUND, to drink your wine.

BUT, ITS NOT JUST THE WINERIES THAT CELEBRATE.

The entire village of Niagara-on-the-Lake turns into a massive display of ice-sculptures, sampling tents, and .. of course, awesome shopping experiences.

This quaint village is a MUST when visiting the area. Located just minutes away from the famous falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake is where you will also find the Shaw Festival housing a series of live theatre productions. Accommodations are abundant for a quick overnight get-away, a weekend jaunt or even an “exclusive” vacation.

HOTELS IN NIAGARA FALLS get in on the action as well where you will find

  • Ice Wine Dinner’s with celebrity chef’s
  • Ice Wine Gala’s
  • Ice Wine Strolls

So you see … Niagara Falls in the WINTER can be just as amazing as in the summer. With all the festivals planned, there is something for everyone.

Ice Wine Festival date: January 18-27, 2020

…Cheers! ■

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