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Grape escapes to plan for fall include harvest fest, murder-mystery

Each fall we look for a balm to soften the impending blow of winter. The grape harvest season provides just such a balm (more commonly known as wine).

Here are some local winery events that feature both wine and food. Some events sell out fast, so we recommend getting tickets as early as possible, especially if you plan a group outing.

Also be sure to have valid photo ID (even if you are old, like us) to make things go smoother for the staff.

Niagara Wine Trail USA events

The Niagara Wine Trail’s Harvest Festival takes place 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 22 and noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 23. Tickets are valid for both days at up to 10 participating wineries, and include three wines with a sample of a harvest themed dish at each location. For an idea of what’s in store, The Winery at Marjim Manor will pair its Cat’s Meow (a dry white) with a chicken and biscuits sample.

Advance online tickets are $22 per person through Sept. 20; price is $27 per person at the wineries. Designated drivers and non-drinking attendees do not need a ticket. Groups are recommended to purchase tickets online in advance, and call ahead to the wineries to make reservations.

The popular Hallowine takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 20 and noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 21. Costumes are encouraged, however avoid masks during check in so wineries can check ID. Visit wineries to collect clues and interview suspects at each location.

This year's murder, "Lights, Camera, Murder," has a 1920s Oscar theme. Submit your guess about "who done it," to win wine prizes. Tickets are valid for both days and include a tasting of three wines at each participating winery and a commemorative wine glass. Food will be available at participating wineries/food trucks. Tickets are $30 and sold in advance only (no door sales).

Visit niagarawinetrail.org for details on both events.

Vineyard Express at Spring Lake Winery
7373 Rochester Road, Lockport (439-5253)

Located on the Niagara Wine Trail, Spring Lake Winery also hosts fall train ride/murder mystery events on three Sundays: Sept. 23, Oct. 14 and Oct. 28 (no Bills' game this date). The train starts in Lockport at 21 Michigan and Park Avenue, with stops at the Medina Railroad Museum and then on to Spring Lake Winery.

Guests can explore the winery while they walk the crime scene and investigate. Enjoy dinner by the lake at 4 p.m. (buffet salad, stuffed chicken breast, mashed potatoes, penne pasta with marinara, vegetable, rolls, dessert). There will be live music, samples of wine ice cream, specialty drinks and sangria.

First-class tickets are $125 per person/$250 couple; coach tickets are $79 per person/$149 couple. Meet at 11:30 a.m. to board the train, which returns by 6:45 p.m. Purchase tickets and get details at springlakewinery.com, or call 948-0505.

Lake Erie Wine Trail events

Johnson Estate Winery hosts Pinot harvest and picnic luncheons on Sept. 9 and 23. Pick Pinot Noir grapes in the morning (weather permitting) then receive a certificate for a bottle of the limited hand-picked vintage of 2018, signed by the winemaker (release date to be determined).

Event is limited to 30 pickers, and begins at 9:30 a.m. for registration with coffee and a croissant. At 10 a.m. begin picking, then at noon enjoy a harvest picnic on the ridge. Some planned items along with wine include a cheese and charcuterie board, baguettes, cold tomato soup shots, a main course and an apple tart. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Tickets are $30 per person in advance online or by calling 326-2191.

The trail's Lake Erie Wine Country Harvest Wine Celebration happens Nov. 2-4 and Nov. 9-11. Harvest food and wine samples will be featured at each winery. Visitors receive a booklet of the recipes of the food samples. Also included is a $5 voucher to use at any winery or restaurants designated on the back of the voucher. Cost for a three-day ticket is $38, or Friday and/or Sunday only is $28.

Designated driver tickets are $10. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Fridays (Nov. 2 and 9) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (Nov. 3-4 and 10-11).  Visit lakeeriewinecountry.org.

Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake

The wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts a Taste of the Season from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends in November (Nov. 2-4, Nov. 9-11, Nov. 16-18 and Nov. 23-25). The event features VQA wine and food pairings at each member winery.

Tickets are $45 Canadian (roughly $35 American) plus taxes and fees. A designated driver pass is $25. Tickets can be purchased online or at any of the participating wineries. To buy tickets and to see a sample of pairings visit wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com.

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