The winters may be bitter to some, but to the Grand River Valley winemakers, the coldest days of December are bottles of ice wine in the making.

Bottles of sugar-sweet ice wine will be uncorked Saturday, and again March 19, during the Grand River Valley Ice Wine Festival. Five local wineries showcase the best of winter’s harvest, Ohio Wine Producers Association director Donniella Winchell said.

Debonné Vineyards, Ferrante Winery, Grand River Cellars Winery, Laurello Vineyards and St. Joseph Vineyards will participate in the event. Grand River Cellars and Chalet Debonné will also host progressive dinners.

“The Ice Wine Festival is a huge event for our region,” she said. “It easily draws 3,000 to 4,000 people to the area. Sure, they come to taste the wines, but they also fill their gas tanks, spend the night, eat dinner, and shop at our stores and boutiques. The festival helps to extend the season. March is not usually the time that people are thinking about traveling to wine country, so our ice wines bring people into the area in the dead of winter.”

Each winery will offer a sample of ice wine and a complimentary appetizer for $5 per person, per winery.

Debonne Vineyards in Madison will feature Adams Reserve sharp cheddar served with homemade peach jam and walnuts. The events will also include ice carving at noon, a dog sled demonstration, and, for an additional fee, an ice wine martini bar.

At Ferrante’s, diners can enjoy fire roasted pork infused with ice wine. Chef Nina will offer a “Fire and Ice” cooking demonstration all day, local artist Carol Johnson will create glass art grape jewelry at 3 p.m. At Ferrante’s, participants can enjoy four course dinner specials paired with wine on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Pizza topped with homemade pear jam and blue cheese with crushed walnuts will be served at Grand River Cellars. The winery will also feature live painting by artist Jacci Guarino-Stincic, and an ice wine marshmallow roast all day.

Dark chocolate peppered biscotti drizzled with white chocolate will be the appetizer of the day at Laurello Vineyards. The winery will also host Lake Erie beach glass jewelry maker Rita Burns and pottery by William Shearrow.

Pound cake with maple syrup, whipped cream and nuts will be served at St. Joseph’s Vineyards. The winery will also host a local art show.

Bring in a non-perishable food item and receive $1 off admission at each location.

“It certainly doesn’t seem like it, but we are blessed with the cold, cold Decembers that help make northeast Ohio one of the only places for ice-wine production,” Winchell said.

Winchell said ice wines are a northeast Ohio delicacy that deserves celebration.

“Ice wine can’t be made in California or Florida or even in southern Ohio, for the most part,” Winchell said. “This is so unique a product that it captures the attention and the respect of wine snobs and critics everywhere. It lets folks know we are serious producers.”

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