Shores of Erie International Wine Festival draws 20,000 people


By Joel Charron

Joan Hodgson and her husband Bill causally sit a picnic table, sipping on glasses of chardonnay at the Shores of Eire International Wine Festival.

“This is the life,” said Hodgson. “This is such a great event and such absolutely beautiful venue.”

Hodgson and her husband were amongst the over 20,000 people who visited the Fort Malden National Historic Site this past weekend for the eight annual Shores of Erie International Wine Festival.

“This year was absolutely fantastic,” said Shores of Eire Wine Festival committee chair, Karen Gyorgy. “It was just perfect.”

“I think we have to be very proud,” said Festival director Kelly O’Rourke. “I think attendance was great, it was up where we want it. The committee should be applauded.”

Gyorgy said  the festival attracted good crowds all weekend but was particular surprised on Sunday.

“The crowd were double than usual,” she said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful day. To see double the people come out on Sunday and enjoy the food and wine was truly a magnificent scene.”

O’Rourke said the festival has grown from originally featuring only three wineries and seven restaurants to 11 local wineries and 28 restaurants.


Chris D’Angelo of D’Angelo Wines said the local winery can go through 140 boxes of wine during the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival.

“I remember the day when we first started and I never thought I would be standing here seeing what I see today with the vendors and the wineries,” said Gyorgy. “I don’t think any of us ever expected for this festival to turn into what it is today.”

O’Rourke and Gyorgy noted the food vendors were the best they have ever been.

“We always have a good turnover in restaurants that brings new tastes to the festival,” said O’Rourke.

O’Rourke said wineries are “expanding like crazy in our region” which could be very good for the annual festival.

“Right now we have 22 winery locations with 11 wineries, I think we will see a variety of wineries in the next few years,” said O’Rourke. “The region is popping. We are up to 18 wineries and I think we will see most of them here.”

The Festival kicked off Thursday night with Justin Nozuka opening for headliner Fitz and the Tantrums.

Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor-Essex County and Pelee Island said this region has the same latitude as Tuscany and Northern California.

“That is why we have award winning wines and world classes wineries right here in Essex County,” boasted Orr.

He also added Amherstburg has “recognized the importance of tourism and culture.”

“Amherstburg knows how to present a successful festival and do it right,” said Orr.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said Fort Malden was a tremendous venue for the festival and applauded the organizing committee and volunteers for their efforts for hosting a “such classy event.”

“Everyone who had a hand in this should be commended,” said Hurst.

Jarred Picher, Parks Canada manager of historic sites for southwestern Ontario, noted it was the eighth consecutive year the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival has been at Fort Malden. He said that partnership is more important in this War of 1812 Bicentennial year as Parks Canada wants to bring Canadians even closer to their history.

As Gyorgy officially opened the festival; she noted the work of the 450 volunteers who “worked tirelessly to transform Fort Malden into festival grounds in a matter of days.”

“We have the best volunteer in the county,” she stated.

Gyorgy also thanked the town for their partnership, saying whatever the committee needed, the town was there.

Chris D’Angelo of D’Angelo Wines said the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival has become the regions “premiere event” to showcase local wines.

“The gives people a chance to come and taste all the wineries in Essex County without people having to do a wine tour,” said D’Angelo.

D’Angelo said D’Angelo Winery has participated in the Wine Festival every year

Faith Bradt and Matt Fox enjoy a glass of wine on Saturday night.

and will keep coming back because only is it a great way to get people to taste their wine, it generates a lot of revenue.

“This is the best event all year for us,” he said.

How much wine do they go through in a weekend?

With two D’Angelo Winery booths at the Wine Festival, D’Angelo said each location is given a skid of 70 boxes of wine.

“We nearly get rid of everything when it is all said in done,” he said.

Essex MPP Tara Natayshak arrived on a bus with a large group of people Saturday night said he always looks forward to attending the event.

“It is the marquee event of the year for this region,” he said. “It showcases our regions wine and the talents of our vintners.”

Natayshak said he encourages everyone to “check it out.”

“Everyone around the province needs to attend at least once,” said Natayshak. “You get a taste of wine, food and culture but the venue is incredible, it’s unmatched. They have utilized Fort Malden to is most effective capacity.”

Natayshak said he already knew what wine he was going for even before got arrived at the Wine Festival gates.

“I try to taste all of them but I do have a favorite wine, it’s the Baco Noir from Aleksander Estate Winery,” said Natayshak. “It’s truly unbelievable. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.”

Hodgson, who attended all four days of the Wine Festival, said it’s a good way to end the summer.

“It’s like an unofficial good-bye to summer,” she laughed.

The couple sat at their picnic table, along the riverside enjoying the calming surrounding as the sun set on Saturday night. Hodgson turned to her husband and joked that the pair should book the weekend off work for next years Wine Festival.

“Why not get a jump on it,” she said. “We love coming here and sharing a bottle of wine. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

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