Niagara Wine and Food Festival...tons of fun in St. Catharines
ST. CATHARINES – Had a chance to check out the Niagara Wine (and food) Festival in downtown St. Kitts on Saturday, and I came away fairly impressed.
They could’ve used a few more signs pointing the way to Montebello Park, which I read somewhere was designed by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, and that's pretty impressive. It’s a lovely spot, and organizers did a nice job of mixing things up for adults and kids.
There were plenty of climbing castles and jumping trampoline thingy’s for little ones, and there was a steady parade of pretty people and guys with tattoos, all wandering about tasting everything from venison hot dogs and plates of pasta with meatballs to Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. You can get a small bite to eat for a token, which costs $3. One token also gets you a small glass of wine; plenty for tasting and sipping.
I had some pretty decent wine, but none that could approach the Cabernet-Merlot from Niagara's Tawse. It had none of the green pepper/vegetal taste that I tend to find in many Ontario wines; a taste I find to be a real turn-off. Smooth and flavourful and mellow, it’s definitely worth looking for.
They had plenty of live music, including a nine-piece rock/blues/pop band called, I think, Groove Hammers. They covered everything from Springsteen’s Tenth Avenue Freeze Out to Soul Man, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, which they absolutely nailed with a sax, trumpet and trombone, not to mention a silky lead guitar player. Very, very good stuff on a warm sunny day, especially when you can sit on a lawn in Southern Ontario and openly sip a glass of wine
The festival goes on through next weekend, so check it out.
I stayed the night in Niagara Falls at the bustling Fallsview Marriott. The views aren’t quite as good as they are from the fallsview rooms at the Hilton down the street, but they’re still excellent. And the lobby isn’t quite so crazy as the Hilton, which I found to be something of a zoo when I was there in summer.
I thought about having dinner at the Marriott’s dining room, which they say “overlooks nothing but the falls.” A nice line, but mostly it overlooks a series of trees and the Niagara River and only a very small sliver of the falls themselves.
I opted for dinner a block away at Milestone’s, situated in the Sheraton Hotel. The Ontario Tire Dealers’ Association commandeered most of the restaurant for a dinner, which featured a speech from Ontario’s head tire guy. I couldn’t resist clapping when he finished his talk, feeling silly but seeing another person with no connection to the convention doing likewise and grinning as stupidly as I was.
I put in $5 in a slot machine in the Fallsview Casino and actually got a little bit back, although not much. My wife won almost $5 on her first spin on the machine next to me, and we wisely packed it in after four minutes and a grand total of 75 cents in winnings. Big-time.
I got up Sunday morning and walked along the lovely parks they’ve built behind the Fallsview Casino. Very impressive; with benches and little paths and thousands of mounds of towering impatiens and nice views of the falls
The falls were as lovely as always. The sheer power and drama of Niagara Falls never ceases to amaze me. But as I stood along the precipice, not more than 10 feet from the rushing water plunging downward, I kept thinking, “How in hell did they build this platform so close to one of the most powerful, death-inducing waterfalls in the world?” I’m sure there’s an explanation, but I sure as heck don’t get how they managed it….