That is it! Our latest ice wine grapes were picked on December 16th, 2016 under a beautiful winter sun – oh and a little snow on the ground and a brisk 8°F outside – brrr. The conditions were perfect even though the crop was small – probably no more than 2,500 bottles for this vintage. Our last ice wine pick was 2013 so we’re keeping up with our every 3 to 4 years ice wine harvest tradition. The grapes came from the old and venerable Hahn Hill Vineyard. (Team – thank you for enduring that crazy weather – it was for a good cause!)
The grapes were frozen solid with a little dehydration and some rot – beautiful mix of ripeness which will provide great complexity. Here is a little shot of a cluster to illustrate:
Few people truly understand the labor and cost behind making an ice wine. First, while we reserve grapes every year by leaving them on the vine, we only pick it every 3 years on average which means that the grapes go to waste 2 out of 3 years. Then the process is extremely labor intensive – everything is done by hand (picking, pressing, racking, filtration) and in small quantities. Packaging is also expensive because the production is small. We also label our ice wine by hand and pack every bottle by hand (see below). Believe me, we don’t make it for the money but rather because it is such an important style highlighting the versatility of Riesling and therefore, displays our mastery.
Contrast the Ice Wine process that I have described above with the production of our Vin De Glacière (aka the “wine from the ice box”). We make that wine every vintage (vs every 3 years) and instead of waiting for a natural frost, we handpick the crop at 22.5 Brix and freeze the clusters in a giant freezer. We then press the frozen grapes when it is nice and warm outside in flip flops vs fur boots for our Ice Wines. Pressing frozen berries concentrates the flavors, sugar and acid and this is what makes an Ice Wine or our Vin De Glacière delicious – it is technically called a cryoextraction. All in, we can produce the Vin de Glacière for a third of the cost of a true Ice Wine. The wines are different for sure, the Ice Wine is more complex with raisin and botrytis notes while the Vin de Glacière is more focused and fruity. The acidity also tends to be higher for the Vin De Glacière because it is picked earlier than the Ice Wine. I would say that for every day sweet wine consumption, the Vin De Glacière is perfect – reserve the Ice Wines for special occasions such as a celebration of a new Ice Wine vintage! Hooray!