Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival: Uncorking Niagara's Best Spring Parties

Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival: Uncorking Niagara's Best Spring Parties

By David DeRocco 

You don’t have to know your Chardonnay from your Pinot Grigio to appreciate just how enjoyable an afternoon of wine sampling can be. And thanks to the 2019 Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to sample some of the best new wines Niagara has to offer during the festival’s upcoming spring events.

Saturday, June 15th marks the official kickoff to wine season in Niagara, as festival organizers present the annual TD Wealth Tailgate Party, a night of all-inclusive fun hosted this year at 13th Street Winery. This is not a stereotypical wine event pandering to the elitist tastes of the wine and cheese set: instead, the Tailgate Party is just that – an entirely accessible celebration of the Niagara wine industry that attracts a broad diversity of wine lovers.

“Honestly, in my opinion this is the event of the summer,” said Dorian Anderson, Executive Director of the Niagara Wine Festival. “I love this event. We have 30 wineries, 15 food trucks or chefs and we’re expecting more than 1,500 people. We’ve got The Postmen and Jessica Wilson on our live entertainment stage. For $85 ($90 after May 20) you can sample food and wine the entire night, and you’re in the middle of a beautiful vineyard on a warm spring night. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening.”

While the TD Tailgate Party offers one night of fun, the Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival Discovery Pass offers holders two full weekends of both wine sampling and food pairing at more than 30 area wineries. As a result, the pass provides people who may just be discovering all the Niagara Wine Route has to offer a perfect introduction to local wineries and the wines they make. While the Discovery Pass is also offered during September’s Grape and Wine Festival, the fact the spring program happens prior to Niagara’s busy tourist season is a great advantage for pass holders.

“Each year we sell close to 15,000, although that’s spread out over the whole year,” said Anderson. “The Discovery Pass during our Homegrown Festival in June is our quietest in terms of sales. I think partially because the school year is winding down and people are just starting to think about summer vacation. So if people want to come and enjoy it when it’s not as crowded and busy at the wineries, and to have more chance to talk about the wines, this is definitely the passport to try.”

Closing out this year’s calendar of Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival events is the newly added RBC “Brunch in the Vineyard,” scheduled for June 23th at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Jackson-Triggs Winery. Ticket holders will join Grape Growers of Ontario’s 2018 Grape King, Chris Van de Laar for a wine and brunch pairing featuring eight of Niagara’s hottest chefs. Anderson says the Brunch in the Vineyard event is reflective of the Niagara Wine Festival’s ongoing efforts to introduce innovative new events into the festival each year.

“We launched the Picnic (in the Vineyard) last year as a way to get people in to try some rosés and some different wines. It was a really fun event, but it was too close and too similar to the Tailgate Party. So we decided to hop on the trendy brunch train and launch something new this year that’s focused on rosés and sparkling wines, and that also has restaurant chefs as opposed to food trucks. We’re hoping this one is going to stick, and if it does it’s going to become an annual event too.”

As for ongoing Niagara Festival events, Anderson and her festival team are already busy putting together September’s 67th annual Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. As Executive Director, she is fully aware of the inherent challenges involved in planning this festival, given the annual hue and cry from both the traditionalists who want the heritage maintained and the voices demanding innovation and change. That said, Anderson expects visitors to Montebello Park will enjoy this year’s fall program.

“There are some interesting things coming down. They’re in the partnership stage right now, so until we can kind of get them locked in with some of the partners we really can’t announce them. But in Montebello Park last year we really did work on the guest experience. We added in tons of lighting and some really cool décor elements. We focused on what the park looked like, and you’ll definitely see that this year. We’re going to reorganize how things are laid out in the park a little bit. It’s such a gorgeous place to spend time. We’re going to ensure that people can enjoy the beauty of the park as much as they like the wine. Aesthetically they’re going to notice the difference this year. Hopefully it will be something they can get it excited about!”

For full details on the 2019 Niagara Homegrown Wine Festival, and to buy your tickets to events, visit:


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