Wineries to partner with local businesses
By Lauren Zaepfel
The Niagara Wine Trail is offering its annual "Be Mine with Wine" Valentine-themed event for those who wish to treat their sweethearts (or themselves) this February.
Once again, wineries along the trail will offer wine tasting, as well as chocolaty desserts for all participants. The event will run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Feb. 13 and 20, as well as noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 14 and 21.
"I think it's a nice, fun option because, instead of just going out to dinner and a movie with, like, everyone on earth, you can kind of take a little bit more time with your special someone - you can eat chocolate and wine, and we all know that's super romantic," Niagara Wine Trail Coordinator Elizabeth Maute said.
Margo Sue Bittner, the Niagara Wine Trail event committee chair and owner of the Winery at Marjim Manor, said, "A lot of times you get a bottle of wine, some chocolates and some flowers. So we're just making it easy and making it a fun event for couples to go to and enjoy their day out."
"We made it Valentine's Day weekend and the weekend after for Saturday and Sunday. So that way, if someone wants to give somebody the tickets for Valentine's Day, they can spend the next following weekend there along the trail," Maute said.
This year, each ticket is valid for two weeks rather than only one, like in past years. Also, a single ticket is valid for visiting 10 of the total 22 wineries along the Niagara Wine Trail.
"Visiting all 22 in one weekend is still kind of impossible to do. So we lowered the ticket price (from $30 to $22), so it should be a little bit more affordable; so people can buy some wine to take home with them," Maute said. "If you want to do the 22 (wineries), you can buy another ticket. If you wanted to do five on Saturday and the rest of the five the next Saturday, you could, too."
Throughout both weekends, each winery will do its own take on the event. Some have partnered with local chocolatiers or bakeries to provide desserts, such as truffles and cheesecake, while others will provide their own chocolate.
"Part of the charm of the 'Be Mine with Wine' event is that, in February, we're all looking for an excuse to get out of the house," Flight of Five Winery owner Jackie Connelly said. "Each winery will be putting our best foot forward. We'll be pairing one of our wines with some special chocolate confection that we've put together. ...
"You know, Valentine's Day is about telling someone we love them, and this is a fun way to build that into your day. So for a lot of reasons, that's a nice way to say that."
Bittner said, "We are lucky enough that Sunday is actually Valentine's Day, so we're hoping we get a lot of families through that want to learn about our wine. The event is "an opportunity to introduce ourselves not only to local people, but to tourists who want a little bit of education along with their wine tasting. So they get to taste the wine and we also get to talk (about) chocolate and why we pair this wine with this chocolate."
Maute said participants can purchase wine, take what they learned from the event, and make the pairings at home
Besides supporting local wineries, "Be Mine with Wine" encourages participants to shop at other nearby businesses, including restaurants and lodging options.
"The Schulze Vineyards & Winery like to pair with Cream and Sugar Café (in Lockport). ... So it just entices people to, maybe, go in and stop at their location to try some of their food there and to enjoy it," Maute said. "We do, too, encourage people, if they're going to be making a whole weekend out of it, to stop at the bed and breakfasts or, you know, book a hotel or a room or something so that you can enjoy the whole weekend."
Maute said the event often draws local residents, as well as visitors from the Finger Lakes, New York City, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Freedom Run Winery owner Larry Manning said the event serves as an opportunity for visitors to experience the trail in a different way.
"And the wine trail is so diverse with so many different types of wine I guarantee you that there's a wine for everyone," he said.
To add to the list of options, Shane Gustafson, owner of A Gust of Sun Winery and Vineyard, will reveal two new wines, just in time for the event.
"We will be releasing our Three Westies White and our Sweet Westies White. And those are both wines that are dedicated to our three dogs, our three West Highland white terriers, that are there on the property. ... So those (wines) are going to be brand-new and they'll be available for both weekends of 'Be Mine with Wine.' "
Advanced tickets for "Be Mine with Wine" are available online at http://niagarawinetrail.org/mine-wine/ for $22 each until 9 p.m. Feb. 11. Tickets purchased during the event are $27. Each ticket includes three tastes of wine and a dessert sample at 10 of the 22 Niagara Wine Trail wineries, and a wine glass at the beginning of the event.
Ticket prices do not include transportation. Those traveling via bus or limo must call and make reservations with each winery on their itinerary in advance. Groups are also advised to purchase tickets in a single transaction, so all participants begin their tour together at the same winery.
A valid photo ID with proof of age is required to participate in any of the wine tastings. Designated drivers/nondrinker attendees are not required to purchase a ticket.