Views from the Ontario Vines
“Twenty Valley Winter WineFest - 2015”
By F.G. Couch
The temperature was a chilly -9C, the Icewine harvest was virtually finished and it was time to head to Jordan Village for the sixth annual Winter WineFest. This three-day festival started on a Friday night this year with concerts featuring headliner, Kira Isabella, who was nominated for the 2014 CCMA Award for ‘Female Artist of the Year’. The entertainment was on an outside stage but attendees could warm up in the food and wine tent just across the street from the main stage.
The main festivities started Saturday morning with the first entertainers, 'Broken Cadence', appearing on the main stage. Other groups performed throughout the day. The food and wine tent was open and food trucks were on the street ready to serve up some delicious hot dishes to go along with over 80 varieties of "sweet, sparkling, sensational" VQA wines.
Some of the food trucks and restaurants participating this year included Pappas Greek on Wheels. They were serving such dishes as pitas (gyro, souvlaki, chicken breast, vegetarian), Greek salads and fries (feta cheese, vegetables and tzatziki sauce). Tropical Temptations warmed people up with Kona coffee creations (caramel crunch, island vanilla or Irish hula) and hot chocolate (double chocolate, salted caramel or hazelnut). The Yellow Pear Food Truck's menu included Icewine grilled cheese, Ontario trout hot pockets, sweet potato soup and steak pie with picked onion & salad.
Also on the outside was Smoke's Poutinerie serving traditional poutine or a less traditional chili poutine and bacon poutine.
More restaurants were featured inside the food and wine tent. These included AVella's Wood Fired Oven serving up a variety of cooked-to-order pizzas. Sweetie Pies Bakery offered up some sweet treats including sticky toffee pudding, Icewine butter tarts and assorted fruit tarts. August Restaurant of Beamsville was serving a mini French Canadian tourtière, bacon cheeseburger sliders and an apple cider butter tart. The Twisted Potato featured fried spiral potatoes and "bloomin' onions".
To accompany all this delicious food, Icewine, red, white, and sparkling wines were available in the food and wine tent from a number of Niagara's finest wineries. There were also cocktails available from Dillon's Small Batch Distillers and beer being sold by Steam Whistle Brewing of Toronto.
Some of the winery employees attending the event included from left to right: Josh from Calamus Estate Winery, Christine from GreenLane Estate Winery, Grayson from Mike Weir Estate Winery and Jane from Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery.
A highlight of Winter WineFest is always the Winemakers' Barrel Challenge. Some of the area's winemakers compete in this timed, barrel rolling race to win the coveted "Golden Blunnies" trophy. This prized trophy is made from a pair of Blundstone work boots painted gold and mounted on wooden base made from a section of a wine barrel. This year's winner was Dan Stouck, assistant winemaker at Malivoire Wine. Yvonne Irvine, assistant winemaker at Creekside Estate Winery, successfully defended her title and won the women's trophy.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoon two local chefs competed in the Twenty Valley Chef Black Box Challenge. On Saturday, Chef Mark Hand of "Feastivities Events & Catering" and Executive Chef Justin Downes of the Restaurant at Vineland Estates Winery duelled it out. The chefs had to use five ingredients chosen by Nicolette Novak of the Good Earth Food and Wine Co. of Beamsville to put together a dish within a time limit. They could also pick other ingredients to use from an assortment of items for their creation. Members of the audience were chosen to "judge" the final product. After a half hour of bantering, the chefs, surprisingly, put together two unique and delicious looking chicken-based meals. In the Saturday session, although it was a close call, Chef Hand was declared the winner.
Although it was bitter cold, the "Vogue in the Valley" fashion show went on as planned. Models, including Sue-Ann Staff, winemaker (centre), braved the elements to show some of the fashions and accessories from local Jordan boutiques.
With all the activities, food and, of course, the wonderful VQA wines, the 2015 edition of the Twenty Valley Winter WineFest was a complete success. For information about this and other events such as "Get Fresh in the Valley" and "Wrapped up in the Valley", visit the website at
Photos by © F.G. Couch
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- photos by Fred Couch
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