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Saturday February 6th, 2016

Posted at 4:47pm

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Essex county has been booming with business this weekend, as crowds gather at all our local wineries for the 16th annual Festival of Ice.

Initiated by Colio Estate Winery 16 years ago, it’s only been four or five years since they’ve chosen to include other wineries in their festival. This year, 12 other local wineries are participating in the popular event, bringing hundreds of patrons down to the Harrow and Colchester regions to see the scenic wine country and taste their spectacular wines – all for the simple donation of a canned good.

“This is all about helping and giving back to the community which is what Colio believes in,” said Danielle Giroux, VP of Marketing at Colio. “Today it’s all about bringing a canned food donation to the food bank, and they can sample three of our wines and enjoy the festivities.”

Each winery has something different to offer their guests, while Colio stands at the forefront with the debut of their newest wine “Hat Trick,” which was emphasized Saturday with the special appearance of Jason Woolley, former Detroit Red Wings Player. Colio also had live ice sculpture carving, which will continue to be on display through Sunday, as long as it doesn’t melt due to our lack of icy weather accompanying the festivities.

Down the road and around the corner at Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, wine maker and co-owner Tanya Mitchell said not only is the festival meant to bring new patrons through their doors, but it also acts as way for the wineries to honor their long-standing patrons as well as give back to the community.

“An event like this is great because it just brings people out, it’s a specific open house event,” said Mitchell. “Especially in February, it gets a little quieter around here. This is a great reason for people to come out to the wineries, it gives people something to do and it’s an inexpensive way of having a fun day for people. There is some cost to us to provide this food, but it usually outweighs it when people buy wine. It’s also a good customer appreciation event … a lot of it is about creating an experience for people.”

At the end of the day, Giroux said the hope Colio had when they began this festival, which also runs Sunday from noon through 5pm, was to give some much-needed exposure to our very own wine country.

“It’s about making sure people understand this region,” said Giroux. “It’s a little known region, believe it or not, people who are 45 minutes away in Windsor don’t even know we’re here so this is about raising awareness, raising the profile of all the local wineries … I think it’s really important to support our backyard and come get to know what we have here because it’s fabulous.”

A group of ladies take a “selfie” with former Detroit Red Wings player Jason Woolley.

Marc Jonston stands next to his masterpiece at Colio Estate Winery during their 16th annual Festival of Ice.

Mike Ure (left) and Aidan Johnson-Bujold (right) relax by the outside fireplace in between sets at Oxley Estate Winery.

Tanya Mitchell (left) wine maker and co-owner of Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery converses with a table of customers while they enjoy their wine and chocolate treat samples.

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