To celebrate Niagara's winter, one must attend one of its many regional ice wine festivals. Last weekend in a balmy
Jordan Village, at one point,
it was so warm I confess that I cleansed my palate with a refreshing Steam Whistle beer served by a smiling young man dressed happily in a t-shirt. Not ideal for ice carving, but quite relaxing as mellow participants slowly sipped Niagara's best vintages and tapped their feet to lively outdoor music provided by the good folks at the Twenty Valley Tourism Association.
Twenty Valley encompasses Beamsville, Vineland and Jordan. Torontonians seeking culture and recreation as well as inspired Niagara cuisine at such restaurants as
The Inn on the Twenty are discovering Twenty Valley's unique offerings from the laid back serenity of rustic nature trails to signature wine touring and boutique shopping. Indeed, besides summer golf courses, there are heritage sites, museums and art galleries nestled in the heart of this rural, yet surprisingly sophisticated wine country.
Last weekend, on the streets of Jordan Village, slightly over 11,000 visitors (up from last year's total of 5,000) sampled from over 80 amazing Twenty Valley VQA red, white and sparkling wines and Icewines, an incredible variety that would please any oenophile.
Served from inside two large white tents and outside from food trucks named El Gastronomo Vagabundo, Dobro Jesti, Dirty South and Beaver Tails, besides wine, participants enjoyed myriad savoury items to eat and diligently watched "Celebrity Chef" demos by
Chuck Hughes, the
Anna and Michael Olson. There were fashion shows and an evening street party (Saturday) with musical entertainment by USS. No, not a ship, but the musical group,
Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker. The after-party featured music by the
Mean Bones, cocktails by
Dillon's Small Batch Distillers, delicious appetizers and of course the aforementioned delicious beer from
Serena Pryne and the Mandervilles played their peppy, rhythmic music, and everyone enjoyed both her sensuous voice and the excellent backup. Serena reminds me of an aerobics instructor the way she bounces back and forth, prancing on the stage. Such energy! The last group to perform was
Broken Cadence before MC, J.D. Pachereva (Twenty Valley GM) brought the weekend to a close.
I enjoyed simply walking the street in charming Jordan Village and meandering through the eclectic shops such as the Jordan Art Gallery, full of unique items created by skilled local artists. Unfortunately, the skating rink was not viable, but the "Roll out the Barrel Competition" went on as scheduled. Parking was free with a complimentary shuttle service provided to the event from both the fire hall and arena conveniently located just on the outskirts of town. I managed to ride aboard the
Dynasty Limousine Shuttle Service bus, so spiffy that I expected champagne and dancers.
Anna Olsen in Action, photo by Mike Keenan
Besides the Festival in Jordan Village, there are many more activities listed at individual wineries such as Calamus Estate Winery, Cave Spring Cellars, Creekside Estate Winery, DiProfio Wines Limited, Flat Rock Cellars, Harbour Estates Winery, and Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, which you can review at their websites.
In Beamsville, check out: Angels Gate Winery, Aure Wines, Cornerstone Estate Winery, De Sousa Wine Cellars, Fielding Estate Winery, GreenLane Estate Winery, Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery, Legends Estates Winery, Malivoire Wine Company, Mountain Road Wine Company, Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery, Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery, The Good Earth Food & Wine Co. Winery, The Organized Crime Winery, Thirty Bench Wine Makers.
And in Vineland, see: Alvento Winery, Featherstone Estate Winery, Kacaba Vineyards & Winery, Megalomaniac John Howard Cellars of Distinction, Ridgepoint Wines, Stoney Ridge Estates Winery, Tawse Winery, The Foreign Affair Winery and Vineland Estates Winery
So, next season, get out your toque, take a short drive into rural Niagara, move outside into the invigorating fresh air, and enjoy the delightful taste of Niagara's sweet winter harvest!
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.