As we thaw from a seemingly endless winter and officially begin spring, it's an ideal time for Toronto's food and wine lovers to reacquaint themselves with the great wine region in our backyard via Cuvée — the industry's annual celebration of winemaking excellence.

This year's Cuvée Grand Tasting is being held Friday, March 24th at the Scotia Bank Convention Centrein Niagara Falls, featuring 48 Ontario wineries and their winemakers pouring two of their favourite wines. The popular returning theme of the past few years gives attendees the opportunity to try some of Ontario's best wines — many of which will be new and recent releases, along with some previews of soon-to-be-released bottles — and have one-on-one conversations with the winemakers. There should be plenty to talk about coming off the long, warm and dry 2016 vintage. Since no wine celebration is complete without an after party, once the tasting glasses are put away the Aprés Cuvée After Party begins with dancing and a nightcap bar of local sparkling, Icewine and craft beer.

Cuvée has long understood fine food and wine make the other even better, so it has partnered with 10 Niagara chefs who will be cooking wine-friendly bites during the Grand Tasting. Among them are Niagara wine country cuisine standard-bearers like Frank Dodd of Trius and Andrew McLeod of Bolete Restaurant, which opened last year to great acclaim.

As much as Cuvée has been about celebrating local wine, it has also been about giving back to the community. Since taking over as organizer a couple years ago Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has raised over $65,000 that has benefited the Ontario wine industry through student scholarships and research projects at CCOVI, as well as the local community via donations to the previous organizer, the Niagara Community Foundation.

Tickets for the Cuvée Grand Tasting are $200 and are available online . They include a passport for Cuvée Enroute (also available online for $30 for those not attending the Grand Tasting). Running the weekend of the Grand Tasting, Cuvée Enroute allows wine lovers to explore some of the province's best juice, with participating wineries pouring special flights including top-label wines, barrel samples of upcoming wines, new releases and rare back vintage that hint at the province's wine future by exploring its past. It's also the first opportunity to buy some of the unreleased wines previewed exclusively at the Grand Tasting, which will come off the shelves and go back to the cellars for further ageing after the weekend.

Cuvée 2017, March 24th, Scotia Bank Convention Centre, Niagara Falls,