Guide to Ontario's Icewine
Canada is the largest producer of Icewine in the world and the most sought-after and award-winning varietals come from Ontario.
What is Icewine?
The birth of Icewine dates back to a happy accident in late 1700s Europe with an unexpectedly early frost. The frozen grapes were processed anyway with a sweet result.
Since then, Icewine has continued to be made from grapes intentionally left on the vine past the typical harvest season, specifically until the temperature dips to approximately minus eight degrees Celsius.
Once frozen, they are carefully hand-picked and processed immediately. In some cases, the Icewine harvest could be completed overnight. Icewine production is a time-sensitive, labour-intensive process that also requires more fruit vines than any other wine.
The freeze concentrates the sugar and minerals in the grape, resulting in a complex liquid with a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Although commonly compared to a dessert wine, Icewine pairs well with savoury starters and mains, such as bold cheeses and rich seafood dishes.
Where to enjoy Icewine in Ontario
The combination of a unique climate and dedicated winemakers has put Ontario on the map as a world leader in Icewine production. Here are a few suggestions of wineries to tour and taste this liquid gold.
Up to 50 wineries in Ontario produce a variety of Icewine flavours, with most found in the Niagara Peninsula.
Pioneers in the Icewine industry, Inniskillin began producing in the early 1980s, and within 10 years their Icewine was garnering world recognition and winning awards.
Their Icewine collection features Vidal, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Sparkling Icewine.
Location: 1499 Line #8, Niagara-on-the-Lake
One of Niagara’s founding family wineries, Reif also explored this unique sweet wine in the 1980s and continues to use the same designated vineyard block to harvest their internationally acclaimed Icewine.
Another Icewine heavyweight, this winery has accumulated hundreds of awards for its wines, including a wide selection of dessert wines.
With over 50 years of winemaking experience in the Niagara region, Peller Estates is well known for its quality signature Icewine series. The igloo-like underground 10Below Icewine Lounge—featuring a bar, seating, sculptures and chandelier all carved out of ice—might just be the coolest place to sample Icewine.
This multi-generational winemaking family brought old-world knowledge from Germany, the birthplace of Icewine, to a picturesque lakefront spot in Niagara and has been producing premium wines ever since, including a variety of late harvest and Vidal Icewine.
Location: 1096 Lakeshore Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Founded in 1978, this winery has become a leader in Canada’s wine industry for its dedication to excellence and sustainability. Their dessert wines include Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Icewine.
Location: 1025 York Road, St. Davids
Prince Edward County
Known for exceptional sparkling wines, there are also a handful of winemakers producing late harvest and Icewine in Prince Edward County. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes consistently flourish due to the climate and conditions but other varieties including Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Vidal do quite well in this charming wine region.
Prince Edward County’s old winery creates a Vidal Progression Collection that’s a must for Icewine connoisseurs. Four bottles lead from table to dessert wine with a Vidal, Late Harvest, Select Late Harvest and a Vidal Icewine.
Location: 3016 County Road 8, Picton
Nestled in the southeast corner of the county in a former cheese factory, Exultet also crafts a Late Harvest Vidal and a Dolce Ghiacciato Vidal Icewine.
Location: 1112 Royal Road, Milford
Lake Erie North Shore
South of Windsor, Canada’s southernmost land is also its oldest commercial grape-growing region.
In addition to a Select Late Harvest Riesling, you can pick up an aromatic Vidal Icewine from this winery, restaurant and nature reserve.
Location: 1425 Iler Road, Harrow
Small-lot, premium wines are crafted from hand-harvested grapes, including Vidal Icewines.
Location: 7457 County Road 18, Harrow
Another Harrow-based vineyard, Oxley playfully takes wine pairing to the next level with music pairing. Be sure to listen to “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” by Lee Dorsey as you sample their Vidal Blanc Icewine.
Location: 533 County 50 Road East, Harrow
One of Canada’s original wine producers, Pelee Island Winery now operates from two facilities, one on Pelee Island and the other in Kingsville. Choose from a Vidal Icewine and a Cabernet Franc Icewine.
Location: 455 Seacliff Drive, Kingsville
Icewine themed getaways and tours
Niagara Icewine Festival
Gather with Icewine producers, connoisseurs and enthusiasts for three spectacular weekends of indoor and outdoor merriment during the annual Niagara Icewine Festival.
Sample the region’s finest Icewine paired with cuisine prepared by local chefs, enjoy live entertainment, stroll among outdoor ice sculptures and festival lights, warm up by the firepits and take home your commemorative sampling glass.
Details: the annual festival will be held over three weekends between January 13 and 29, 2023; check the website for upcoming tickets and details
Vintage Hotel Wine Packages
Book a visit to one of three Vintage Hotel Niagara-on-the-Lake properties for a wine-themed escape.
The Icewine Lover’s Getaway includes accommodations, a charcuterie board to share and a special Icewine martini. This package is available for the full month of January, a perfect treat to start your new year.
Details: package rates at Prince of Wales and Queen’s Landing range from $219 on weeknights to $329 on Saturday nights; packages at Pillar and Post range from $249 to $359; all taxes and gratuities are extra
Last updated: December 7, 2022