It takes five times as many grapes to make a bottle of icewine as to produce a bottle of table wine, thus the icewines' cost of $40 to $60 for a half-bottle.
There were seminars with John Schreiner, author of the definitive icewine book and the country's leading authority. "Icewine made the world sit up and notice Canadian wines," he says.
Reg Hendrickson of the Dairy Farmers of Canada led a lively "Sparkles and Ice" tasting of bubblies and icewines matched with some of Canada's 400 cheeses, including Goudas, cheddars, Bries and blues.
"You taste cheese much as you do wine by first smelling, then rolling it around in your mouth to extract the flavor," Reg told us, reminding us that one key difference is that we needn't spit the cheese.
In the end our group voted that the mélange of flavors we wanted lingering on our palates was darn near any of the icewines with a dollop of Saltspring Island's Moonstruck Beddis Blue cheese.
The most decadent event was the tasting/pairing of nine wines, from unoaked Chardonnay to raspberry wine and icewine with mounds of French milk and dark chocolates. I learned there is an official way to taste chocolate: Served at room temperature, it should be chewed five to 10 times, then spread around the mouth. Add icewine. Stir with tongue. Swoon.
Over the long weekend I mixed up my winter activities -- downhill one day, cross-country on 18 miles of track-set trails the next, then a morning on snowshoes or ungroomed "backcountry" trails. One night I decided to join the International Fondue and Torchlight Descent that starts with a chairlift ride to the Sunburst Restaurant for a three-course fondue meal -- broth, cheese and chocolate. This meal was accompanied by live music.
After dinner we donned headlamps and skied by moonlight and the glow of torches down a freshly groomed five-mile ski run. For those who preferred not to ski, a snow limo schussed them back to the village.
The Icewine Festival ended Saturday evening with a frozen Mardi Gras. Wine glasses in hand, the parka-clad crowd wandered around the village on a progressive food and wine tasting. We stopped in at lodges, hotels and restaurants for a sip and a sample of fine cuisine before strolling to the next venue.
What better way to spend a January than at a frozen street party with snow crunching under your feet, icewine swirling in your mouth and the knowledge that powder awaits you in the morning?