Ontario spa soaks visitors in wine

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario (Reuters) — Every year about 4 million people descend on this quaint, 19th century town at the mouth of the Niagara River to see plays at the Shaw Festival and sample the region’s award-winning wines.

But now visitors to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town of 15,000 a short drive from Toronto and Buffalo, can not only savor the local wine but also have it poured generously over their bodies.

A local spa has developed a technique incorporating the region’s most famous product into a therapy that might raise even a teetotaler’s spirits.

About 25 visitors a week request the White Oaks Spa’s signature treatment, the “Nectar of Niagara Scrub and Massage,” which costs $55 for 55 minutes or $70 for 85 minutes. Spa director Sheila Spear finds this number of patrons remarkable since body treatments are not as popular as aesthetic treatments such as manicures and facials.

Some 25,000 people have visited the spa since the start of the year, about 42 percent from outside of Canada, mainly the United States.

Spear, who sits on the board of directors at Spa Ontario, which sets industry standards, knows of no other spa that offers the service. But she expects the popularity of wine therapy will grow.

“The spa-goer today is more educated and traveled and they want to experiment with new things,” she explained.

All the senses

The Nectar of Niagara is meant to cater to all the senses.

After entering the dimly lit spa and changing into a bathrobe, the spa-goer is greeted by an aesthetician and led to a candle-lit room with a bed.

After undressing — patrons are offered the option of wearing disposable underwear or remaining naked — a mixture of clay and wine residue is rubbed onto the skin to exfoliate the dead, top layers.

Afterward, a sweet-smelling mixture of wine and honey is poured on the body. The sticky concoction is massaged into the skin before the client is wrapped in plastic and a heated blanket for several minutes so that the mixture can penetrate deeper.

Finally, it is washed off in a hydrotherapy bath.

The experience is so relaxing, clients can lose track of time lolling in the spa’s relaxation rooms, as this reporter did when enjoying the therapy. Although the sweet scent of grapes and honey washed away quickly, the treatment left my skin extraordinarily silky for days.

Spear, who has been in the spa industry for more than 20 years, developed an interest in vintherapy in the late 1980s.

While running her own spa, she used to offer red wine peels as part of facials but stopped the service after some clients reacted poorly to the treatment.

Another reason Spear stopped using wine in therapy was a lack of sources. She only knew of one winery in California willing to supply a wine product suitable for the body.

After moving to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the heart of Ontario’s wine country, she decided to reconsider the idea.

“I wanted to use products that were right at my doorstep,” said Spear.

Clarifying process

Spear approached wineries in hopes of making a product that assisted in exfoliation of the skin. Crushed grape seeds were too abrasive while grapes with the skin on were too slippery.

At one winery, Hernder Estates, Spear noticed a mixture in a jar and found out it was the by-product of the clarifying process — a mixture of wine residue and refined white clay from North Carolina used to extract sediment from the wine.

That combination suited the spa treatment perfectly.

The process of clarifying wine occurs only once a year, so Spear must estimate the demand for her spa treatments a year in advance. This year, she froze several hundred individual portions of the wine-clay mixture.

It has been two years since the spa began offering wine treatments and word of mouth has spread. Spear said she constantly receives calls from other spas interested in offering the treatment and it has only been a few months since she started sharing her secret.

“I wanted to have at least a year before other people started,” she explained.

For those not satisfied with wine, White Oaks offers other quintessentially Canadian treatments — including a brown sugar and maple syrup wrap.

“Maple syrup and sap are like nature’s cortisone,” said Spear. “It’s very anti-inflammatory and the sugars in it are extremely nourishing to the skin.”

Wine can be enjoyed in many environments – in fact recently I enjoyed a nice wine and cheese tasting event at Silk Wood Medical – and would much encourage anyone that has a chance to – to try it out.

Canada PM links Sept. 11 to ‘arrogant’ West

OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) — Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has linked the September 11 suicide attacks to the perceived arrogance and selfishness of the United States and the West.

Chretien is the first leader of a western major nation to suggest that the suicide hijackers might have been motivated by what he describes as the misguided policies of a rich and powerful West that did not understand the need for restraint.

The veteran prime minister, who has been in power for nine years, told the CBC in an interview aired late Wednesday that there was “a lot of resentment” about the way in which powerful nations treated the increasing number of poor and dispossessed people in the world.

“You know, you cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for others. That is what the Western world — not only the Americans, the Western world — has to realize. Because they (the have-nots) are human beings too. There are long-term consequences if you don’t look hard at the reality in 10 or 20 (or) 30 years from now,” he said.

Chretien continued: “And I do think the Western world is getting too rich in relation to the poor world and necessarily, you know, we’re looked upon as being arrogant, self-satisfied greedy and with no limits. And September 11 is an occasion for me to realize it even more.”

A total of 3,025 people — including 23 Canadians — died in the September 11 attacks. Chretien comes from the moderate left of Canada’s ruling Liberal Party, which has sometimes looked upon Republican administrations with suspicion.

Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette — also on the left of the party — went further in an interview with the CBC that was broadcast in the same September 11 package as the prime minister’s. He likened some leading players in the United States to bullies on an ice hockey rink.

Chretien’s relations with U.S. President George W. Bush have always been cool and his criticism of Washington’s increasingly unilateral foreign policy is unlikely to win him fresh friends in the White House.

The leader of the right-wing Canadian Alliance party, which is generally more favorably inclined toward the United States, quickly branded Chretien’s musings as a disgrace.

“(His) comments — particularly coming on the anniversary of September 11 — blaming the victim are shameful. What was behind the events of September 11 are the forces of evil and hatred,” said Stephen Harper.

“These must be resisted by free and democratic societies and their leaders. His comments are unacceptable, and he should apologize to the United States and to the families of the Canadian victims.”


The local CBC radio station in Ottawa was flooded with calls Thursday morning from listeners backing Chretien.

Bush met Chretien last week amid a concerted U.S. effort to persuade its allies of the need to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Chretien stressed instead the need to work through the United Nations to build a coalition.

Chretien’s reflective comments were highly unusual for a man known as a down-to-earth politician with little time for the deeper philosophy of governance. The one skill the West and the United States seemed to lack was that of knowing when to exercise some restraint, he said.

“It’s always the problem when you read history — (no one) knows when to stop. There’s a moment, you know, when you have to stop,” he told the CBC, saying he had made this point to a group of Wall Street executives unhappy that Canada had full diplomatic relations with arch U.S. foe Cuba.

“And I said that day…’When you’re (as) powerful (as) you are, you guys, it’s the time to be nice’.”

Collenette himself showed little signs of restraint, telling the CBC that the collapse of the Soviet Union had removed an important check on U.S. foreign policy.

“There will be people in the United States sort of emboldened by their new source of unfettered power to — in an (ice) hockey term — get their elbows up,” he said.

Foreign policy has never been high on Chretien’s agenda, with the notable exception of Africa. At this year’s summit of the Group of Eight most powerful nations, Chretien — as host — insisted his fellow leaders pay particular attention to a plan designed to help combat endemic poverty in Africa.

“I think the western world is a bit too selfish and that there is a lot of resentment. I felt it when I dealt with the African file for the G8 summit. You know, the poor get relatively poorer all the time and the rich are getting richer all the time,” he said.

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Guard pilots may face charges in errant bombing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Air National Guard pilots may face criminal charges for their roles in a bombing that killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

A senior defense official said the Air Force is recommending that charges be filed against F-16 pilots Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach. Pentagon officials were expected to announce the charges Friday after the U.S. Central Command and the Canadian government released additional details from a joint investigation of the April 17 tragedy.

The senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Thursday the Air Force would recommend that Schmidt be charged with involuntary manslaughter. He dropped a 500-pound bomb on a group of Canadian soldiers, mistaking them for enemy forces. Four Canadians were killed and eight were wounded.

The Air Force also is recommending Schmidt be charged with failure to exercise appropriate flight discipline.

Umbach, the lead pilot, would face charges of aiding and abetting Schmidt in the involuntary manslaughter, the official said. As lead pilot, he should have more forcefully intervened to stop Schmidt from dropping the bomb until confirmation of the target was received, the Air Force says.

The charges were first reported Thursday night by NBC News.

Because Schmidt and Umbach are members of the Illinois Air National Guard and are no longer mobilized under federal authority, they would have to be recalled to active duty to face the charges.

It is unclear whether the recommended charges against them will be considered under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — essentially like a grand jury proceeding in the civilian judicial system — or will be taken directly to a court-martial.

The inadvertent killings caused a public uproar in Canada. The joint U.S.-Canadian investigation faulted both pilots for failure to follow established procedures to ensure that they attacked a legitimate target.

Central Command publicly released the basic findings of the investigation in June but did not release details. It said it needed more time to remove classified information from the report.

Schmidt spotted flashes on the ground as he was flying over the Canadians, who were conducting a nighttime live-fire exercise. He thought the fire was from hostile forces but was told by a U.S. air controller to hold fire until further inquiry could clarify the situation, according to the investigation report.

Schmidt nonetheless declared he was “rolling in in self-defense” and dropped the bomb.

The inquiry that was completed in June determined that Schmidt and Umbach were largely to blame for the mistaken attack, although it also found undisclosed problems in the pilots’ command structure.

A decision on disciplinary action was left to Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley, the senior Air Force officer in Central Command. In August, however, that responsibility was transferred to Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Lawyers for Schmidt and Umbach had claimed Moseley was predisposed to find the pilots guilty.

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