Niagara Food/Wine Festival
According to the tourism ontario website it is Sept 21-30 this year. I would reccomend marking it on your calender. I don't always make it every year but I find it a very nice day trip. The main "festivities" take place in a downtown park in St. Catherines. It is pleasant enough and not too expensive. Many wineries are represented and there IS food - you will not go hungry but it is mostly like small samples - perfect to go with a bit of wine.
But if your not into the crowds, just grab a winery map and head off to the individual wineries. During that week they are very busy, keep in mind so I often go at other times in the fall - when the leaves turn it's truly amazing down there. Do try Treadwells in Port Dalhousie - it is worth the stop and prices are fine.
We wandered unknowingly into the area with Shaw tickets while it was taking place. It was all about wine - not food (at least when we were there). Some wineries put out munchies that they don't ordinarily have but, realistically, you can go there at any time in late summer for the same experience, with fewer crowds.
There wasn't any kind of a ripoff - most of the wineries didn't even look at the festival tickets, so it was effectively free. The B&Bs seemed to be charging their regular prices, though the Vintage Inn hotels were gouging. But you need to book dinners and accommodation VERY early for the festival period. This was the only time I ever found EVERY hotel and B&B in NOTL sold out.
In short, go if you enjoy this kind of experience, but not necessarily during the festival. And remember that the few wineries offering really great wine don't necessarily have the best stuff on display.
Montebello Park (close to intersection of Ontario/Church Streets) is the location of the winery and restaurant sampling and also live entertainment. Last year you bought tokens which you used to purchase samples (or full meals) from the booths located on the perimeter of the park.I also enjoyed a gourmet meal (5 courses with each course matched to local wines) at night put on by the Niagara College Culinary Institute, which was terrific. This took place in the pavillion at night in the park. Great time! If you can't wait until the fall...the New Vintage Festival is occurring June 8th-17th (I believe this is a new event) - here's the link for more info...