Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Report from: Shores of Erie International Wine Festival - September 8, 2007

It would be redundant of me to review the wines of the Lake Erie North Shore a month after going to their Vintages Festival … therefore this report focuses strictly on the event. The Shore of Erie International Wine Festival is one of the prettiest festivals you’ll ever attend, and one of the easiest to get around. Held at Fort Malden, which is on the Detroit River, the festival invites hundreds if not thousands of Americans and Canadians to enjoy the fruits of our culinary and vented labours; all held at a place that, at one point, was used to keep those “nasty” Americans out – ironic huh?

If you live east of London, Ontario you’ve probably never heard of the Shore of Erie Wine Festival, that’s because the marketing focus of the festival, and for many of the wineries of the area, is the 30+ million folks that live within a 100-mile radius, which includes most of Michigan, Windsor, Chatham, London and surrounding area. The festival is all about the food and wine of the Lake Erie North Shore, and unlike the Vintage Tasting, held in August, the SOE Wine Festival has as many restaurants as it does wineries, probably more; and the list of live bands playing the festival grows every year. At first it was all just local bands and acts, but this year Ron Sexsmith and the Cowboy Junkies graced the stage on opening night; while annual favourites like Thornetta Davis played the all-important Saturday night gig.

The focus of the festival does remain very much local; you’ll notice that very few businesses from outside that aforementioned 100 miles venture out, but it was nice to see a business from Niagara take part, selling their grape juice infused t-shirts … and it seems they did a banner business as every fifth person walking around had on one of their cutesy-logoed shirts (e.g. Desperate Housewines or Grapes Anatomy). Sarah Jensen, one of the proprietors said, “I’d never heard of this festival before, I didn’t even know it existed. We were a last minute addition and we’re so glad we came. It’s a great festival and I just love the location … it’s so pretty here.”

Because the festival is held on the Detroit River, ship traffic is inevitable. “The big ships really make this event unique, I’d say they pass by every hour or so and they just look so majestic. Here comes one now.” Harvey Hollingshead from Erie Shore Vineyard told me as we watched one of these big boats cruise on by. “It really added that extra something.”

“Pretty”, “ma
jestic” what other words were used to describe this festival? “Fun” … Arms Bumanlag, radio personality for AM800 CKLW and host on the big stage for the Saturday afternoon, told me about the “fun” Friday night activities (which unfortunately I missed due to a Genesis concert in Toronto). “It was almost rained out. We had high winds at the beginning and then at about nine the rain came, complete with thunder and lightning. Nobody left though, people gathered under the two big tents,” he said pointing them out, “full glasses in hand and watched the light show. Lightning struck a few places on the river, but instead of being scared they cheered and toasted each strike.”

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 2 events in the seminar tent. On Sunday there was a Battle of the Chefs between St. Clair College and the Stratford Chef School … next year Shelly “Big Phil Collins Fan” Thrasher wants to expand the battle even further. The other event was held under that same tent at 12:15 on Saturday, where the Grape Guy himself lured 104+ people to hear his talk about “Why Visit a Winery” … you’ll have to get a review from somebody else because I’m too close to the guy to give a non-bias opinion; but I hear it was a “hell of a show”, and my big public kiss on the cheek from organizer Shelly Thrasher in front of all assembled sealed the deal. See you next year Shores of Erie … bigger and better.

Thanks also to the following wineries who provided wine for my talk:

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery
Colio Estate Wines
Erie Shore Vineyard
nardi Wines
Muscedere Vineyards
Pelee Island Winery
Sanson Estate Winery

Smith and Wilson Winery
Wagner Estate Winery

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