Welcome to my life in Niagara! Grab a glass, there's bound to be wine.

Six Ways to Drink in January

me & Icewine

I am not on friendly terms with winter. But you know what? Since I’ve moved to Niagara, I can actually enjoy January a little bit. That’s because January is dedicated to all things Icewine.

You heard that right. A whole month of dinners, tastings, special events, and other festivities to celebrate one of the wines we make best. Being the hearty Canadian souls that we are, much of this fun takes place outside too.

We’re just a wee bit crazy.

Aside from what’s going on for the Icewine Festival, I’ve been noticing that there are lots of good things happening at the wineries this month. Some are Icewine related, some not. So I have put together a handy list for you. These are not big, expensive dinners or anything like that. I’m talking about special pairings, tutorials, tours – fun stuff that won’t break the budget.

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I’ve had a few people ask me how I find out about these happenings. Well, there are several sources. I’m on a couple of newsletter lists for my favourite wineries. There’s Twitter. There’s the website for Niagara-on-the-Lake Tourism. Sometimes it’s word of mouth. There really is no consistent way. I also find out about things after the fact and say “I wish I had known about that!”

Fear not. We will rectify this. If you know of any fun winery happenings in the Niagara region, please let me know. I will do the same. Deal?

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I’ll start off with a visit to the 10 Below Room at Peller.

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Believe it or not, I didn’t know about this until a week ago.  Peller has built an igloo-like lounge, constructed from over 13,000 kilograms of ice on the lower level of the winery. How truly Canadian can you get? No pun intended, but it’s really cool –  a fun, different environment for Icewine tasting. Before you enter the room, the tour guide gives you some information about Icewine, how it’s made, and why Canada is terrific at producing it. I can see why he does that first. Once you head in the room, everyone is distracted, looking at the etchings, the funky ice block chandeliers, the bar. Oh, and taking selfies.

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Being selfie-challenged, we opted for the traditional route, getting someone to take a picture of us instead.

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Facts about Icewine are etched into the walls.

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It’s a pretty quick tour and tasting, lasting about half an hour. Cost is $20 per person, or $5 for their Wine Club members. It is open year round, but it just seems a great fit for Icewine Festival time. This tour is offered daily, but times vary. Check Peller’s website for all the specifics.

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The following events I haven’t been to yet, but they are on my list. Some are happening every weekend this month.

The first is at one of my favorite wineries – both for its wine, and its stylish, contemporary look. You guessed it, right?

Stratus.

Stratus Tasting Bar

Saturdays and Sundays in January, Stratus will be hosting “Dry is the New Sweet” – a tour and tutorial on their sweet wines. I admit, I am intrigued by the title. I’ve never been a sweet wine fan, but perhaps with a bit of dryness or acidity I may like them a bit more. I am sure I’m not using proper wine terminology, but you know what I mean? I never seem to give sweet wines a fair shake because I really, really, can’t stand super sweet things. After I have something that is cloyingly sweet, all I want is a bucket of salt. This is Stratus, though, so I’m sure it will be good.

Cost is $20 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Please call to book your spot.

Icewine

Reif Estate Winery also has a recurring special event. Weekends in January, you can join in the Icewine Experience at their Sensory Wine Bar. Here you can enjoy a flight of four Icewines, paired with local culinary goodies. Cost is $30 per person, with 25% off if you are one of their wine club members. Reservations are not required, but they are recommended. This is offered Friday through Sunday all this month.

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A visit to the Ice House Winery is also a great idea. These guys are Icewine specialists – it is all they produce – so they know their stuff. They have tours, tastings, and great suggestions for other uses. My favourite way is in cocktails, and they have an extensive list. They are also famous around here for their Icewine slushies, which are especially awesome on hot summer days. You can read a bit about my visit there in this post.

Ice House

Small Talk Vineyards has some good stuff happening too. I love a good charcuterie board, and on January 9th and 23rd, they are having a Wine and Charcuterie Board pairing. Each board will be matched with wines from their wine library, current wines, an ice wine and a cider. From what I can see on their website, it looks like their winemaker, Angela Kasimos, will be there to talk about it. Tickets are $30 per person.

January 16th and 30th they are hosting a Bonfire with Icewine cocktails.  Icewine shines in cocktails – add a bonfire, some food, and entertainment, and I’m in! Cost is $25 per person for this one. You must call and book a spot for either of these events, so check their website for the number.

Icewine pouring

Keep in mind that all of these events are in addition to what’s happening for the Icewine Festival, which kicks off next Friday, January 15th. All the details for it can be found here. Three weekends of celebration, and a whole lot of fun going on throughout the region.

Southbrook

The last winery event happening that I am going to mention isn’t about Icewine. Southbrook Vineyards is holding a Back Vintage Tasting next Saturday, January 16th. At this tasting, you will sample vintages dating as far back as Southbrook‘s first year – 1991. There will be four samples, all matched with a tapas style dish. Tickets are $35, with your choice of three tasting times at 2, 4, and 6pm. You must book in advance, so call or email to reserve your place.

me & Icewine

(Gosh my hair was short last year. Anyway.)

So there’s a lot going on, right? What a great way to spend January. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting about my Icewine adventures. Let me know which ones you’re going to! Perhaps we can raise a glass together.