Icewine makers welcome cold snap

Icewine makers get a jump on making tasty wines during cold weather

Valeria Tait of Bench 1775 Winery harvests some grapes to be used in this year’s ice wine production at the business vineyard on Naramata Road.

Valeria Tait of Bench 1775 Winery harvests some grapes to be used in this year’s ice wine production at the business vineyard on Naramata Road.

The rest of the population may not be pleased with the early cold snaps the Okanagan Valley is experiencing, but local icewine makers are ecstatic.

Wineries from Osoyoos to Kelowna are reporting that the cold weather has allowed them to get the grapes off the vines early.

“This is really early. Normally we don’t get cold snaps until January,” said Val Tait of Bench 1775 winery in Naramata. “There have been years when we have had to wait until the end of January, and in some years, there have been no icewine conditions at all.”

Tait said their first pick happened on Nov. 13 and now, after a second run of sub-zero weather, they have been able to get the majority of their grapes picked. But the first cold weather came so early, she said, that they had only just finished picking the regular harvest.

“We had  to pick the last of our red wine, because it was going to turn into cold conditions for ice wine. We had to get our red wine fruit in, start that fermenting and literally, the next day we were picking and processing icewine,” said Tait, noting that they had also experienced a late ripening of the table wine grapes.

Rob Van Westen, of Van Westen Winery, started picking at midnight on Nov. 18, when the temperature dropped to -11 C.

“We started at midnight at we were squeezing them by 4 a.m. We were in a big hurry because it was going to warm up the next day. We were done shortly after 8 a.m.,” said Van Westen, explaining that as a small producer, he only had 1.7 tonnes to pick.

An early icewine harvest has a number of benefits for the wineries, starting with removing the risk and worry of grapes sitting on the vines.

“You have to leave the fruit sitting out there and there are so many things that can go wrong: thawing and freezing or you have problems with birds or animals. Because there are very few food sources left, they are super aggressive at getting into the fruit you have left hanging,” said Tait.

Another benefit, Van Westen said, is a higher yield of juice from the grapes when they are picked early.

Then there is the taste.

“The expression of the fruit is very vibrant and bright when it is picked earlier. It turns into more caramelized and oxidized flavours, more aged flavours the later you pick,” said Tait. While both are desirable tastes, Tait said the brighter flavour can move icewine from a dessert wine to pre-dinner.

“It goes really well with appetizers or consuming it before a meal with fatty cheeses for fatty fruit. It has this very nice vibrancy that goes with food very well,” she said. “They are quite nice, but I think it is just a matter of changing our perception of how we consume them and what we consume them with.”

Tait said icewines from this year’s harvest should be available in May, though a little aging in the bottle would go far.

“What would be really nice if they get some bottle time. The longer they age, the more interesting they become,” she said.

For Inniskillin Okanagan in Oliver, which harvested in mid-November, this was the earliest icewine harvest on record. Winemaker Derek Kontkanen said his crew began picking Riesling at 3 a.m. when temperatures in the Oliver vineyard had reached -12.2 C. Based on the 40 tonnes of fruit they brought in, he is expecting the quality of the wine to be very high.

“It is a great way to cap off an excellent year,” said Kontkanen. “Fruit quality was great for the table wines and I can see the great potential in the fruit harvested.”


Just Posted

This parking on the east side of Martin Street will be removed permanently Monday morning (June 21, 2021) to put in the Lake to Lake bike lane. (City of Penticton)
Parking removed permanently to make way for bike lane in downtown Penticton

Work begins Monday morning to replace parking spots with bike lane on Martin Street

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Gord Portman getting ready for the Father’s Day dunk tank fundraiser for Discovery House. So far Portman has raised $3,000. (Facebook)
Penticton man takes the plunge for recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

(File photo)
Supreme Court Justice rules Bay has to pay Penticton’s Cherry Lane mall

The ruling found that there had been no unavoidable delay preventing the Bay from paying their rent

Summerland cidery Millionaires' Row is hosting a Father's Day car and art show. (Facebook)
Vintage cars, art and cider for Father’s Day

Summerland’s Millionaires’ Row Cider Co. is hosting the car and art show

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read