Orders for the upcoming History in the Vineyard close next Friday, May 14. That leaves plenty of time to ensure you don’t miss out on a gourmet take-out dinner in support of two local charities.
The Niagara Historical Society and the Friends of Fort George both benefit from the tasty fundraiser next week. The dinner options are provided by Ravine Vineyard, Ruffino’s and The Garrison House, with wine choices offered by Ravine.
Friends of Fort George president Tony Chisholm says the idea for the event arose from a conversation he had a few years ago with Paul Harber, proprietor of Ravine Vineyard.
“He and I met when he was just constructing the new conference centre,” explains Chisholm. “He said to me ‘if you ever have anything you want to do from a fundraising aspect, where you want to use the building, please speak to me’. That’s when we developed the idea of History in the Vineyard.”
The first event took place in the new conference centre in November, 2019. It featured a three-course meal provided by Ravine, with short lectures in the barrel and tasting rooms about historical topics, including the neutral confederacy, the history of wine, the railway and heritage trail and the history of the Ravine property itself. The event sold out quickly.
The success prompted the organizers to plan a return last year. Like many such fundraisers scheduled after March, 2020, however, last year’s dinner was forced to shift to a take-home version. That’s when chefs Ryan Crawford of Ruffino’s and David Watt of The Garrison House became a part of it, offering menu options from their restaurants as well.
Chisholm says because of the nature of the two organizations supported by the event, it was important they were able to maintain the history element of the fundraiser.
“We developed the idea of putting out a video and putting it on YouTube,” he tells The Local, “and giving everyone who got the meal a preview of the video.”
As the 2020 History in the Vineyard was held in December, it made sense to centre the video on stories about Christmases past, including how it was celebrated in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“This year, we put together a video on the 208th anniversary of the Battle of Fort George,” says Chisholm. “We did it with Scott Finlay, who works as an interpreter for Parks Canada. He’s a professional MC (Finlay hosted the inaugural History in the Vineyard). In this year’s video, he’s at Fort George in full costume as General Isaac Brock, talking about the battle, adding a lot of authenticity to the piece.”
Finlay will also be on site in full costume at Ravine on May 20 to greet those diners who opt to pick up their dinners that day.
Chisholm sees History in the Vineyard as a very positive fundraiser for two organizations that help keep the town’s history front and centre.
“It’s an important event for both of these organizations,” he says, “and it provides some work and revenue for the three restaurants as well during a difficult time. On top of it all, it’s really popular, because the food is so good!”
“I’m so glad to see its success as a take-out event,” Chisholm adds. “I would never have guessed it would be nearly as successful as a take-out venture.”
He gives a lot of credit to Harber, a long-time supporter of the Friends of Fort George, for bringing in the other chefs.
“He’s the one who has worked closely with them, he’s the one that has them enthusiastic about it. It’s full-on support from all three restaurants.”
As well, Chisholm can’t say enough about the other members of the committee: chair Mona Babin, Amanda Gamble and Amy Klassen.
“It’s a nice, small committee that works really well together, and we have a lot of fun,” he says. “Each has contributed something that has helped to make this event so successful.”
History in the Vineyard takes place Thursday, May 20 from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $100, which includes a three-course dinner and a $40 tax receipt. Wine pairings are optional. Information is available through any of the three restaurants, or via the NOTL Museum or Friends of Fort George websites.
To view the menu and place your order, visit canadahelps.org/en/charities/niagara-historical-society/events/history-in-the-vineyard-at-home-2.