28 – 30 December 2012
Tag along holidays are wonderful. I ended up being a third wheel for a few days but of course, it didn’t feel like that at all. Andy and Sarah had organised the car rental and accommodation, and all i had to do was be the kid in the back seat. I’ve always wanted to see Niagara Falls to see what all the fuss was about, so this was the perfect opportunity. We drove out of Montreal just after the snow storm, and stopped in Toronto for the night to break up the long drive. Found a brew pub called Mill Street in the old distillery area of downtown Toronto for dinner and beer flights – may I just add there were some super tasty seasonals to be had there. Turned out to be a quiet night then we left the next morning to spend the whole day driving (one and a half hours away if we hadn’t taken the wine road) to our destination, Niagara Falls.
We all had no idea about the Niagara wine region, and caught us totally by surprise when I was sifting through some brochures. Apparently the Niagara Peninsular has the same latitude as southern France and is perfect for grape growing making it the largest producer of wines in all of Canada. The only challenges of the area though, is that being Canadian and all, it can suffer from harsh winters. We were informed throughout the day that they have turned these winter conditions into something which they can benefit from, and have been producing late harvest and ice wines. It was our first ever try, and my gosh it was good! Seriously, every taster we had was delicious.
I hadn’t even heard of ice wine before we got there, and i feel the need to share the process with you. But… instead of me trying to sound all intelligent, here’s what wiki says:
“Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards. Only healthy grapes keep in good shape until the opportunity arises for an ice wine harvest, which in extreme cases can occur after the New Year, on a northern hemisphere calendar. This gives ice wine its characteristic refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity.
Ice wine production is risky (the frost may not come at all before the grapes rot or are otherwise lost) and requires the availability of a large enough labour force to pick the whole crop within a few hours, on a moment’s notice, on the first morning that is cold enough. This results in relatively small amounts of ice wine being made world-wide, making ice wines generally quite expensive.
Ice wine production is obviously limited to that minority of the world’s wine-growing regions where the necessary cold temperatures can be expected to be reached with some regularity. Canada and Germany are the world’s largest producers of ice wines. About 75 percent of the icewine in Canada comes from Ontario.”
There you go, you’re all understanding now. If only i could share the taste of them too! I’m sad that I may not ever taste that deliciousness again, figuring that any ice wine that is sold in my homeland will probably be $200 per bottle considering it’s already $60 from the vineyard itself. Damn it! *If anyone finds it back in Oz please let me know!
On another note, all the vineyards we went to had great wines. Between us 3 we bought home about a dozen bottles, some ice wines but mostly others including videl, reisling, gewürztraminer, peach, and some red blends. Oh man. Now i just have to drink them all.
Oh yeah, and then we finally got to Niagara Falls (the Canadian side). We arrived there on dark. Relaxed. A bit tired. Then went out for Italian dinner and then for a walk to Clifton Hill. I don’t know whether I regret going there, it’s horrible. As quoted by Andy, “it hurt my soul”. It’s kind of like the Gold Coast took a sh*t. Similar in the way that it’s an ugly development of neon and wax museums next to something really beautiful. Seriously, why do people allow this. We got straight out there. Walked down to see the falls that were lit up at night, weren’t that impressed then walked home.
Next day though… OH MY GOSH! The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and without the bright lights of the night before, it all looked so stunning. I forgot about the town behind me and just couldn’t take my eyes off the falls. They were loud, and the low sun shone through the clouds of mist. We’d also managed to beat the winter crowds (nothing in comparison to summer tourism) by heading down in the morning. Everything was covered in ice, the railings, the sticky trees, the buildings. It was so beautiful. I’d never seen pictures of the falls in winter so it was all a complete surprise. I didn’t even care that we couldn’t go on the Maid of the Mist. I took a million photos from the top, and the observation deck behind the falls. Some which are here, some are still on film yet to be developed.