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Ice Wine Harvested Coast to Coast

February 2017
by Andrew Adams

Kelowna, B.C.—Growers in British Columbia, Michigan and Ontario reported excellent conditions for an early harvest of grapes for the 2016 vintage ice wine.

The harvest began Dec. 6 in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where temperatures dropped to 17.6° F and stayed there for three days. Conditions enabled picking to resume a few days later, on Dec. 12 in the Okanagan and in the Similkameen valleys, according to the British Columbia Wine Institute.

The icy temperatures also came early in Ontario, where growers started picking around Dec. 19, when temperatures plunged to 9° F.

In mid-December, two wineries located in Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula also saw sufficiently cold weather to harvest grapes for ice wine.

Mark B. Johnson, winemaker and vice president of Chateau Chantal, which makes around 25,000 cases per year in Traverse City, Mich., told Wines & Vines that he and his team started picking Dec. 16 but decided to hold off on pulling everything off the vine as the grapes felt a little too soft. His patience was rewarded Dec. 19, when temperatures fell to 10° F, and the berries froze quite a bit harder.

Johnson said he saves about three-quarters of an acre of vines for ice wine production. Traditionally, the winery’s ice wine had always been made with Riesling, but Johnson said trials with a few unnamed varieties (GM31857 and NY621221) proved successful. “They were always very ripe and very healthy, and so we started putting those in, (and they make up) about 35% of the blend.”

A nice ice wine harvest capped off a welcome return to a normal harvest overall in Michigan. Johnson said the “polar vortex of 2014” reduced his crop to about 25% of normal, and another cold winter followed by frosts and a nasty spring storm in 2015 cut that crop to just 6% of normal.

Twenty-three wineries are registered with the local authorities to make ice wine in British Columbia.

Inniskillin Okanagan in Oliver, B.C., began picking for ice wine Dec. 8 and finished the following day. “The grapes went through a couple of freeze-thaw periods before picking, which gives the flavor characteristics we want for ice wine,” viticulturist Troy Osborne said in a news release published by the British Columbia Wine Institute.

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