By Lauren Zaepfel
Couples, friends and families sipped local wines while sampling sweet desserts during the Niagara Wine Trail's first weekend of "Be Mine with Wine."
Each winery offered a different chocolate and wine pairing option for participants to try.
"We had a really great turnout. We had more people than in the last two years and we heard some really good feedback from people - that they were really enjoying the chocolate pairing," Niagara Wine Trail Coordinator Elizabeth Maute said. "Overall, (it was) a really, really nice weekend. ... It was pretty cold, but it didn't really sway people from coming out."
Several staff members at participating wineries said events like "Be Mine with Wine" create awareness about what the Niagara Wine Trail offers.
"The Niagara Wine Trail events give us an opportunity to tell people what we have to offer, because it's hard to get the word out. By bringing people here on an event as a group ... each individual winery gets to promote what they have to offer," Tamre Varallo of Spike Lake Winery said.
Niagara Landing Wine Cellars staff member Mark Andrzejczak of North Tonawanda said, "The trail events, in general, bring in a lot of people who don't really know that the wine trail exists. I can't tell you the number of friends and family who, when I started working for a winery and told them where it was, said, 'Oh, there are wineries up by Lockport and Niagara Falls?' So it brings in a lot of local people - some of whom have been doing the event since the wine trail started, pretty much, and some of whom are very new to it and didn't even know the wineries were here."
Maute said, "We've done ('Be Mine with Wine') for quite a few years now, and, based on the feedback, I have a feeling that we'll probably be offering it as two weekends again next year, because we've had a really good turn out."
Each ticket purchased allows eventgoers to sample treats and tastings at up to 10 wineries.
For those who purchased a ticket and did not visit the 10-winery maximum, Maute said they should definitely take advantage of their tickets and attend the event this weekend, as well.
"The weather is supposed to be pretty good," she said. "(Eventgoers) can visit the wineries that they haven't had a chance to get to. If they haven't bought a ticket, or if they want to come back and do it again because they loved it so much - and they want to visit 10 more wineries - they could even do that, too."
"Be Mine with Wine" will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21. Tickets are $27. For more information, visit www.niagarawinetrail.org/mine-wine/.