The focus on local food is as refreshing as it is healthy. It bridges the gap between the farmer and the consumer and allows the consumer to become aware of the provenance of our food. It defines the character of the region and provides communities with a source of safe, healthy food while nurturing the vibrant communities in Niagara. And most importantly it supports local farmers.
The Niagara Region, also known as the Niagara Peninsula, is located between the Great Lakes of Ontario and Erie south of Toronto and is home to the Niagara Fruit Belt. It is about the size of Napa Valley and home to numerous wineries which produce VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wines. The region is best represented by its famous ice wines.
The success of the Niagara region has much to do with the land itself. This small parcel of land is sheltered by Lake Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment and the Niagara River. The area is considered a cool climate viticultural area and is ideal for the production of our now famous ice wine. The ability to fully ripen fruit, including peaches, apricots and grapes, and then being blessed with cold winters allow us to produce internationally renowned VQA ice wines.
The wines are the basis of the local food movement and are complimented by the local cuisine, which can range from peaches, cherries, apricots, vegetables, etc. along with poultry, meat and even flowers. The Wine Route and Niagara Culinary Trail guide people through the region. There are numerous restaurants both located throughout the communities and at many of the wineries. A great reference book is “Niagara Cooks…from Farm to Table” by Lynn Ogryzlo. www.niagaracooks.com. You can find more information at http://explorer.ontarioculinary.com. The Niagara Region is a wonderful four-seasons destination that encompasses hundreds of attractions. A great way to discover the region is by experiencing its regional food, wine and cuisine. From the quaint towns to the thundering Niagara Falls, fine inns and historic monuments, the region is yours to discover. Take a drive along the Niagara Parkway, which hugs the cliffs of the Niagara River and winds its way through flower gardens (Niagara School of Horticulture and Butterfly Conservatory) and forest. The drive was once described by Winston Churchill as “one of the prettiest drives on a Sunday afternoon.”
Enjoy, Donald Ziraldo, C.M.,LLD
Chairman, Ziraldo Estate Winery
It’s indeed an honor that pioneering Canadian winemaker Donald Ziraldo has agreed to write a guest post for this blog. In 1975 Ziraldo, with partner Karl Kaiser, established Inniskillin, the first post-Prohibition winery in Ontario’s Niagara region. In 1984 Ziraldo and Kaiser produced their first vintage of icewine (see below). Inniskillin icewine would in time help establish Canada as a winegrowing region of importance and cement the winery’s worldwide fame.
Ziraldo is also equally important as a pioneer winemaker in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. There’s little doubt that Ziraldo’s early work there has helped the Okanagan become one of the most important new winegrowing regions in North America. Kelowna in the Okanagan is the fastest growing city in Canada and it’s quickly becoming Canada’s culinary capital.
Since Inniskillin’s sale in 2006 Ziraldo has established his own winery and has been managing a port producer in Portugal’s Douro Valley. I’ve asked Ziraldo to write about the Niagara Escarpment Region. Who better than Ziraldo? Going forward I certainly hope he stays engaged with the blog enough to give us periodic updates.
He may surprise us with important information about the Okanagan too. Ziraldo, like so many winemakers, is a passionate local food devotee. Hopefully his piece will also bring us up to date on what’s happening with the exciting Ontario food culture. I’ll let you know when his piece is ready to go.[Top]