The cold Arctic air has finally arrived in British Columbia when the Arctic’s icy fingers turn the bulbous, sued flesh of left over grapes upon the vine into cold sugar pearls. However, the cold arrived later than expected for those wineries looking to harvest their icewine grapes. Up until now it has been unseasonably warm causing terrible conditions for the ice wine grape harvest, although the Canadian geese and deer have been heartily feasting on the cold, aging pearls and would probably make a good meal for some local hunters come September.
The ideal temperature for vintners to collect the ice wine grapes is -8°C but in December we reached a record high of +11°C leaving the local wineries to simply hold their breath and watch their acreages of grapes reduce to about half. Finally, late at night the meticulous harvesting process has begun with evening average temperatures reaching -12°C and we can look forward to indulging in another vintage of the syrupy nectar in a few years. The amount of time and patience that vintners must donate to these grapes is the cause of such high prices. The average bottle of icewine in the Okanagan is about $50 and can go up to $150 in some cases for a slender bottle containing 200 ml.
To me icewine is a rare indulgence and not something I often drink unless I am looking to end a meal in an elegant way while tipping my proverbial top hat (made of cork no less) to the local vintners of my Okanagan home.
Although the Okanagan does not have a festival strictly devoted to icewine (like the annual festival you can find in Niagara Falls) you can catch an evening of icewine education and tastings at this year’s Okanagan Winter Wine Festival held at Sun Peaks Ski Resort on January 17th, 12:00pm. Tickets are $50 CAN.
A video featuring my neighbourhood Summerhill (aka the Pyramid winery) Winery showing the anticipation and work that goes into harvesting the icewine grapes within the Okanagan.