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Five Events You Can’t Miss This Summer

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Summer is buzzing in Niagara.

There really is a lot to do here. Visiting and tasting at all of our fabulous wineries. Seeing a play or a musical at the Shaw Festival. Indulging in a meal at one of our delectable restaurants, preferably on a patio, or overlooking a vineyard. Burning off all that good food and wine cycling along the Greater Niagara Circle Route.  Unleashing your inner historian at a bunch of War of 1812 re-enactment events.

Heck, just the gorgeous weather makes people want to get out and about. Especially after the winter we have endured.

I didn’t get out much last year. It was our first season at Highbrook, and there was always lots to do. When my downtime happened, all I wanted was a book and a glass of wine. This year, however will be different. Well, the books and the wine will still happen, but I want to get out to have some fun too. That’s my plan anyway.

Lots of our guests come to the Niagara Region regularly for all of the reasons I listed above. But if you have been to Niagara before, and are looking for something different to do – or if you are a local and looking for something different to do – I have put together a list of you-can’t-miss-this-summer events.

I am listing five events here, but have only previously attended one of them – the Niagara Jazz Festival. You can read about my experience in this post from last summer. Two of the events I have heard good things about. The other two I don’t know much about, but am intrigued to go check them out for myself anyway!

My list is in chronological order, to help with your summer planning. Here’s to summer 2015!

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1. Graze the Bench – June 6 & 7

Ok, so my picture above might be a bit corny – but I think it is very peaceful and lovely. The sheep is GRAZING (get it?) out amongst the vineyards. This is technically what we will all be doing at this event, though the scene will be a bit more lively. I don’t think the sheep drinks wine either.

My current pictures of Beamsville are all from the recent months of grey, snowy, dreariness. But winter does not exist anymore, so Mr. Sheep will have to do. And he’s cute.

Anyway, back to Graze the Bench!

I have heard great things about this event. A friend of mine went last year, and had a blast. She bought her tickets for this year almost as soon as they were available, because rumour has it that they will sell out quickly. Graze the Bench is a creative collaboration between eight Beamsville wineries, local chefs and bands. Each winery is paired up with a chef, and there will be live music at each location.

I am told these are not small sample sizes either, but generous full-size servings. How does a Thai Pulled Pork Pocket from the Smokin’ Buddha paired with Angels Gate Pinot Gris sound? Sounds amazing to me. Or a Beamsville Hoagie matched with Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Syrah? And these are just two of the pairings on offer.

Add in some great music and friends, and you’re in for a fabulous time. The weather will be beautiful too. I know this for sure. We will have non-stop sun and warmth all summer long to make up for the Winter from Hell.

The second event is just a week later.

2. Mumford & Sons Concert at Butler’s Barracks – June 15

Alas, I do not have a picture of Mumford & Sons that I could use without getting into some major copyright infringement trouble. So you will just have to click on this article to see a picture of them.

This concert was just announced earlier this week, and the whole town is excited about it.

Tickets are available as of Friday April 17 at 10 am via Ticketmaster, and are $69.50 plus service charges. Really folks, this is a steal! This Toronto gal is used to insanely crazy concert prices. Guess that’s why I haven’t been to one really since my teenage years. (Wham! and U2, in case you are wondering, at the CNE. I paid a whopping $25 for those tickets. Life was good in the 80’s)

Given that this is an evening concert, you won’t want to drive home late will you? If not, I know a great B&B I can recommend. Actually, there are lots of great B&B’s.

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3. Niagara Integrated Film Festival – June 18-21

This is the second year for the Niagara Integrated Film Festival, and wow, there is so much going on. It’s probably better to peruse the website for yourself to see all of the details, some of which are still to be confirmed. Jackson-Triggs, pictured above, is just one of the wineries that will have a starring role in this event. They are hosting the Ultimate Gala Experience and Film Screening, nightly from June 19th-21st.

Other wineries are joining in the party too. The Filmalicious and Film Feast events are ones that really appeal to me. Filmalicious involves a vineyard dinner at a Niagara winery and a film screening – the ultimate “dinner and a movie”, according to their website. If you can’t make it to the dinner (which would be a crying shame) you can also just purchase a ticket for the film screening. Watching a first-class film under the stars with a glass of wine in hand…it doesn’t get much better.

The Film Feast program involves a bus tour to three Niagara wineries, where you will sample a flight of wines matched with delicious hors d’oeuvres. On top of that, at each of the wineries you will watch a short film from “Canada’s Not Short on Talent”, a presentation of some of the country’s best at Cannes. Sounds like a fabulous way to spend the day.

And there is so much more happening.  Come and make a weekend of it. And of course, you know where to stay, right???

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4. International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C) – July 17-19

I LOVE Chardonnay. I have always loved Chardonnay. It was the first wine I started to truly appreciate, after I graduated from the poor alcoholic choices of my youth.

Awhile back, cool wine folks claimed that Chardonnay was passé, using the term ABC – “Anything But Chardonnay”. My acronym though was “Always Buy Chardonnay”. Yes, see what a noble stalwart I was for my favourite white wine, still championing its greatness.

Of course, I was not alone. Many winemakers and winelovers believe that Chardonnay is deserving of a renaissance. In April 2010, twenty-eight Ontario wineries began a non-profit group dedicated to restoring Chardonnay to its place of deserved respect. Over the last three years, many cool climate Chardonnay producers have joined with them in their cause. Lucky for us, they converge in Niagara for three days in July, to celebrate all cool things Chardonnay.

We make some fantastic Chardonnays here, and I am thrilled to see them getting the recognition they deserve.  I4C is packed full of events to warm the cockles of every Chardonnay lover’s heart. From the Barrels and Bonfires BBQ, to viticultural and winemaking sessions, to the Chardonnay World Tour Grand Tasting and Dinner, and lots of events at wineries throughout the region.  There is something for all price ranges and degrees of Chardonnay love.

Fellow Chardonnay aficionados, our time has come again.

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5. The Niagara Jazz Festival – July 23-26

Ken and I both love jazz, and were thrilled to discover that Niagara now hosts its own Jazz Festival. We had a great time attending last year, though we only got to one event. But what a time we had – overlooking the beautiful vineyard at Stratus, listening to Brownman Ali, pictured above.

This year, though ,we will be jazzing it up all weekend. We are thrilled to be one of the sponsors, and plan to be at everything! From the launch at Stratus Vineyards on July 23rd, to the Flagship Event at Jackson-Triggs Winery, to the Dixieland Brunch at White Oaks Resort and Spa. I’m sure we’ll also make it to the outdoor stage at Simcoe Park, and some other events.

Yes, we still have a B&B to run that weekend, but we are already booked full with jazzy folks. I’m sure Highbrook will be extra-lively! Impromptu jamming in the living room, anyone? Well, not really. No one would want to hear me sing. And I haven’t played an instrument since grade seven.

But I can dream, right?

Many of the details are still being confirmed, though the Flagship Event headliner has been announced – and it is Michael Kaeshammer. Check this video for a glimpse of what we are in for. I think it will be quite the party!

There are lots of ticket combinations possible – from the full VIP Weekend Pass to options for single events.

I really can’t wait for it. Keep checking the Niagara Jazz Festival website for all the details as they are announced.

Will you be joining me at any of these events? There are a lot of great things happening this summer in Niagara, don’t you agree?