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Note: The smell of fermenting grapes is in the air in Niagara. Harvesters and pickers are in the vineyards scooping up plump and juicy grapes in a race against time to pick this year’s crop before the cold settles in.

It’s a busy time for winemakers and growers as all hands are on deck to not only bring the grapes in but also crush, ferment and organizing what grapes are going into which wine.

The celebration of all things wine is held in conjunction with the harvest as the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival gets ready to strut its stuff. Here’s is what you need to know about this year’s event (as sent by the organizers):

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Join the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival for its 62nd Annual Niagara Wine Festival taking place September 14 through 29, 2013.

The Festival wine route programming will launch a week earlier as we invite cycling enthusiasts from across North America to take part in the GranFondo Niagara September 13-15. Whether you are part of the GranFondo Niagara or simply want to enjoy the Niagara Wine Route for three weekends during harvest, the Niagara Wine Festival Discovery Pass is your ticket to eight incredible wine and culinary experiences at participating wineries.

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On weekend two and three the harvest celebration continues in Downtown St. Catharines where historic Montebello Park presents six days of incredible live entertainment, culinary and wine seminars, parades and VQA wines and favourite local restaurants. Starting with the annual RBC Business Awards and Opening Night ceremonies; including a New Award for the Winery with Heart, recognizing a Niagara winery’s philanthropic efforts. The awards will be followed by the kick off concert with favourite 80’s retro bands The Spoons and Blue Peter.

For two weekends, the WestJet Centre Stage along with Sun Media and Astral Radio, will host a roster full of incredible Canadian talent. From beginning to end popular local bands and Tribute bands take the stage including: The Caverners, Elton Rohn, Desire U2 Tribute and Hotel California. And on Parade Day weekend, breakout band Crystalyne will get the party started and Tragically Hip Tribute band; The Wheat Kings will close things off on Sunday.

In historic Montebello Park, the Fallsview Casino Resort hosts The Wine and Culinary Food Experience presenting over 100 VQA wines available for tasting along with local culinary favourites. And due to popular demand, a showcase of premium wines will be featured by the glass from your favourite wineries as well as in the All Access Lounge.

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On Saturdays; “Educate Your Senses” Culinary and Wine Seminars presented by the Canadian Food and Wine Institute and CCOVI at Brock University and hosted by Best Selling author and wine industry personality, Dr. Linda Bramble, will engage local chefs and winemakers, as well as the Dairy Farmers of Canada, in lively demonstrations, discussions and tastings.

And New to Sunday programming will be the East Vs West; Winemakers Showdown luncheon; where graduate winemakers from both CCOVI and the Niagara College Teaching Winery will team up with Canadian Food and Wine Institute Chefs and Dairy Farmers of Canada to compete for the best wine and foods pairing during this four course culinary showcase. Canadian TV and Radio personality, Terry David Mulligan will moderate the first Sunday’s showdown while wine writer and publisher of WinesInNiagara.com, Rick VanSickle, will moderate the second Sunday showdown.

The East vs West showdown will consist of two teams comprised of four graduate winemakers from each region (16 in total) and will showcase the wines that they have selected to pair with the courses prepared by Canadian Food and Wine Institute chefs and chef students.

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Up to 80 guests will purchase a ticket in advance to help judge the perfect pairings with each course. They will receive two one ounce wine tastings with each course picked by Team East and Team West.  Each team will present their wines and explain why they selected them for the pairing. Organizers are hoping there will some good old fashioned and healthy competition between teams.

It is meant to be both educational and entertaining. Winemakers are asked to bring their wit, ego and charm in order to sway the guests to pick their pairing. After each pairing guests will vote by throwing a cork marked East or West in a spittoon and the votes will be tallied. The CIBC Grande Parade takes place on Saturday September 28 and will present “Honouring Our Heroes, Then and Now” as we continue to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and bridge history with the present day heroes. This toast to the past and our Bi-nationalism will include marching bands, dance troops, floats and amazing performers. Don’t forget your non-perishable food items for the annual Community Care Food Drive.

To learn more about the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival 2013 visit the website here.