Celebrating icewine with the Ice Queen Ball
By Bryan Calandrelli
The 18th annual Niagara Icewine Festival kicked off in style last weekend with the 2013 Icewine Gala––dubbed the Ice Queen’s Ball––at the Fallsview Casino and Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The black-tie-optional event was a sophisticated display of upscale culinary dishes, elaborate ice carvings, and the region’s best icewines and table wines.
The gala transformed the resort’s ballroom into a spectacle of frigid decadence. From the cool blue lights to the white sofas of a makeshift lounge that separated a dance floor from the culinary bounty, the overall feel of the gala celebrated the environment that has made the region into the destination of icewine lovers––even as record-warm January temperatures were the reality just outside the doors.
Despite the deliciously drinkable theme of VQA wines, the real stars of the event were the Fallsview Casino Resort Chef Ray Taylor and his crew. From the plates of grilled octopus, bacon wrapped jumbo prawns, and braised veal to the whimsical display of lollipops, cupcakes, cookies and crème brulée it was easy to get lost in the landscape of meticulously presented culinary treats.
With cuisine in hand, I was never more than a dozen steps away from one of the thirty winery tables set up around the perimeter of the room. Here the ratio of icewine to table wine was 1:3, allowing those of us who prefer to spend the evening exploring the dryer VQA table wines of the region to do so. Standouts include Malivoire’s Alive 2009 Pinot Noir, Southbrook’s Triumph 2011 Chardonnay, and Creekside Estate’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Delicacies at the Ice Queen Ball. Photo by Bryan Calandrelli.
While I would have been happy zig-zagging from table to table, food in one hand and pinot noir in the other, the Ice Queen herself made for an intimidating reminder of what this event is all about. Perched on a solid throne of ice, wearing her crown, face made up with bedazzled ice crystals completing her frozen gaze, she had an alluring manner of motivating us to stay on task and indulge in the region’s crown jewel.
Icewine lovers could rejoice in seeing the diversity within the region’s lineup of world-class dessert wines. Outside of the usual suspects of vidal, riesling, and gewürztraminer, there were plenty of atypical examples. Creekside impressed with its 2008 Shiraz Icewine, while Chateau des Charmes brought the most unique bottle with its 2009 Savagnin Icewine.
As far as upscale wine events go, Ontario’s Niagara wine festivals are as well-executed and sophisticated as any in North America, and the rest of January is packed full of both outdoor and indoor icewine themed activities––all of which can be found at niagarawinefestival.com. If you’re looking for an excuse to break out the black tie and can’t wait for next January’s Icewine Gala, then you should consider Ontario’s Cuvée Grad Tasting Gala on March 1st. It’s the same kind of high-end party but centered around celebrating all around excellence in Ontario winemaking.