As temperatures in the Okanagan dip below freezing, many are cursing Mother Nature while wineries are excited for the cold temperatures.
The Icewine Harvest has officially begun as six wineries have braved the cold temperatures to pick the liquid gold from the vines. Wineries north of Penticton, east of Kelowna and in West Kelowna have begun their harvest as temperatures are perfect. The temperature must be -8°C or below for the harvest to begin as the frozen grapes must reach a quality standard including 35 brix of sugar to be called a true Icewine.
The first winery to pick Icewine grapes was Volcanic Hills Estate Winery in West Kelowna as workers hit the vineyard on Wednesday, November 25th just after 6:00 a.m. With the temperature at -13°C, workers brought in four tons of Chardonnay and four tons of Pinot Noir for their Icewine. Work resumed at midnight on Thursday and crews brought in another five tons of Riesling.
President Bobby Gidda reports that the overall quality is very good with very sweet characters, noting they got over 40 brix in their Chardonnay. “Being such a hot year, I thought a lot of the crop would’ve fallen off, but the large clusters of grapes were all hanging in there and I’m seeing nice sugars in the fruit. I think it’s going to be a very good vintage for Icewine,” said Gidda.
This is the third consecutive year BC’s Icewine harvest has started as early as November and many winemakers, including David Paterson at Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna are thrilled. “It’s awesome when we get Icewine in November,” said Paterson, “This is my seventh Icewine harvest so I’ve done late picks in January and early picks in November and I love the purity of the fruit we get in an earlier pick. The early freeze condenses the vintage allowing us to capture the ripe flavours of pure juice with wonderful natural acidity in the wines.”
Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna also started their harvest Wednesday. Winemaker Eric Von Krosigk notes that they harvested 25 tonnes with another 96 tonnes to go, and the quality is outstanding. Arrowleaf Cellars also harvested early Thursday morning in Lake Country, starting at 5:00 a.m. at -10°C and reaching a high of -9°C by the time they finished picking at 8:30 a.m.
This year, 20 wineries are expected to produce Icewine for a potential harvest of 722 tons from approximately 169 acres. Last year there was a total of 844 tons of grapes picked. Wineries that have decided to forgo the Icewine designation have already started picking grapes for Late Harvest wines.
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To Follow Tantalus Vineyards (@tantaluswine) on Twitter click here