Canada Icewine - Pillitteri Estates Winery

Gold is Made in the Cold

Debbie Trenholm
Savvy Company

How does Icewine differ from other wines?

Throughout the growing season, winemakers decide which grapes to leave on the vines long after the regular harvest is complete and wait for Mother Nature to turn them into gold – icewine grapes that is. The magic number is the air needs to hit -8 degrees Celsius or colder. At this point, the frenzy begins! The frozen grapes can be picked (by law it must reach -8 degrees in order to be classified as an Icewine). Some wineries leave the grapes on longer (such as -10 degrees). The trick with Icewine is that winemakers never know when during the winter -8 degrees will come.

This year -8 degrees came to Niagara in early January. Winemakers also need a long period of time at that cold temperature to pick (some wineries have many acres of vineyards with frozen grapes) and crush the grapes.

In 2001 I was called on to pick in an Icewine harvest. While staying in Niagara doing some consulting work, I received a phone call at 11:30 one night from Ann Sperling – Winemaker at the time at Malivoire. What an opportunity! I bundled up and headed out!

When you think of a vineyard often thoughts of lush green comes to mind. But in January, the reality is that many grapes had fallen off (these are no good), and the bare dead vines set against the stark whiteness of the snow was very dramatic. Shadows of people were cast from the head lamps of the tractor going up and down the rows of grapes being picked by people with ski gloves.

The grapes look like almost like raisins – brown & shrivelled. Mother Nature has attacked them – hitting them several times by frost. I had to snap the bunches off the vine (remember with ski gloves) and they were hard as marbels. Clunk they go into my bucket.

The winemaker’s job is to press them – they press these little pellets and patiently wait until the first juice comes out. The juice looks like apple juice concentrate that you get at the grocery story – as thick and the same caramel colour.

Once the grapes are crushed outdoors (they too have to maintain -8 degrees Celsius during this part of the winemaking process) they can bring the juice into the cellar to start to ferment it. As you can imagine, the juice in each grape is highly concentrated because the water content of the grapes is frozen. What is extracted from the grapes is pure nectar – this is why Icewine is deliciously sweet.

For my Icewine harvest experience, the team of pickers (all family & friends) were out for about 6 hours, until sunrise. We had to stop because the sun was rising and the temperature began to rise above the magic number -8C.

What foods go well with Icewine?

When I serve Icewine I follow a simple rule of thumb – make sure that the food is not sweeter than the Icewine – it will make your Icewine seem sweeter. Good accompaniments include dark chocolate, roasted nuts, and fresh fruit. Icewine can be served before or after dinner or as a dessert all on its own.

How much does a bottle of Icewine cost, on average?

Because of all that work that goes into making a bottle, and because, like maple syrup, it takes a lot of grapes to make one bottle – most Icewine cost between $45 and $85. I know of some Icewines that have a price tag of $1000 plus!

An interesting note: at the recent Nobel Peace Prize dinner President Obama was served an Icewine by Niagara winery Inniskillin (click here for more info). This same wine was recently featured in Oprah Magazine.

Why is the Icewine experience one to try?

People are really starting to recognize the beauty of this type of wine. Bottom line, it is uniquely Canadian. There is so much love and care that goes into making the wine that it is magical! Everything has to come together to make this type of wine: -8 degrees and a team of patient pickers.

If someone wanted a good ice wine to start with, can you suggest a few types/brands?
In Niagara, winemakers started with Vidal as the main grape variety to create Icewine. it is hardy grape to grow with its thick skin, so it weathers well while waiting for the magic -8 degrees. But with the curiousity and experimentation of many winemakers, you can get almost any grape variety in this sweet rendition. I have enjoyed icewines made with Chardonnay and Reisling as well as red icewines made with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. It is neat to see how the same grape can taste so different. There are also sparkling Icewines.

My favourite sparkling wine is made by Pillitteri Estates Winery. Be sure to try the classic Inniskillin Vidal Icewine VQA, served at the Nobel Peace Prize dinner. And if you want to indulge in a red Icewine, try Malivoire’s Cabernet Franc Icewine VQA ….and those are just for starters!

An event not to be missed! Check out the Niagara Icewine Festival on now until January 31st. A delicious getaway with tastings and winemakers dinners.

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Gold is Made in the Cold

Debbie Trenholm Savvy Company How does Icewine differ from other wines? Throughout the growing season, winemakers decide which grapes to leave on the vines long after the regular harvest is complete and wait for Mother Nature to turn them into gold – icewine grapes that is. The magic number is the air needs to hit […]

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Icewine Recipe: Icewine Crème Brûlée (Egg-Free)

Icewine Crème Brûlée (Egg-Free) Courtesy of: Anna Olsen Food Network Serves 6 This version of crème brûlée is not cooked using eggs, but instead uses the acidity of Icewine, a very sweet dessert wine, to set the cream. Because it is not baked, it can be beautifully presented in wine glasses. Ingredients Custards 2 ½ […]

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2014 Niagara Icewine Festival – My Review

By:Jason Solanki Published: January 23rd, 2014 http://vintagewinepicks.blogspot.ca/2014/01/2014-niagara-icewine-festival-my-review.html What an amazing two days! Last weekend, we enjoyed many Icewines and tasty culinary creations at 9 different wineries throughout Niagara-on-the-Lake and Twenty Valley. The full photo gallery is available at the bottom of this post. Our group of 11 began Saturday afternoon at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, […]

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Icewine Recipes: Poached Pear Infused with Pillitteri Vidal Icewine

Poached Pear with Icewine? This is delicious! Ingredients (serves 4) 3 cups water 1 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar ½ cup Pillitteri Estates Vidal Icewine 2 x cinnamon sticks roughly broken 2 large, just ripe bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut in half 4 1inch x 1inch thin squares of good quality white chocolate Good […]

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Pillitteri Estates Winery Completes Their Largest Icewine Harvest

Published by: Wines in Niagara Rick VanSickle ‏ January 3rd, 2014 Pillitteri Estates Winery completed their largest ever harvest of icewine grapes during a wild New Year’s winter storm. A record icewine harvest for Pillitteri, which began in early December kicked in to high gear on New Year’s Day. At 5 a.m. as the temperature […]

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A record year for BC Icewine

By John Schreiner Here’s hoping that consumers still have a taste for something sweet: British Columbia’s winemakers are likely to produce about 300,000 litres of Icewine. This is double from the 2012 production. Some 29 producers have registered to turn 1,000 tons of grapes into Icewine this year. The harvest began November 20-21, the third […]

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Market for icewines heats up

The Vancouver Sun By: Michelle Locke November 20th, 2013 Leaving grapes to freeze on the vine seems like a recipe for stone cold failure. But under the right conditions, the grapes that come in from the (extreme) cold can produce delicious dessert wines that are a cool favourite for holiday pairings. What to call it? […]

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Best Ways to Enjoy Icewine

Love Icewine  but have a hard time wondering what to pair it with? Pillitteri has you covered, providing several suggestions on what to have with Icewine. Icewine is incredibly versatile, pairing nicely with a variety of foods and snacks. The only thing we do not recommend is pairing Icewine with something that is much sweeter. […]

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Niagara Icewine Festival Brings Cheer

By: Waheeda Harris The annual Niagara Icewine Festival is a celebration of the bounty of grapes that makes the award-winning dessert wine. The festival runs on weekends in January. For winemakers in the Niagara Region winter isn’t a time of reflection — it’s harvest time for Icewine. Produced in Ontario since 1984, the province has become as well […]

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Icewine Crowned

Translated via Google Translate from French, to view the original post by “Sud Ouest” follow the link: Icewine Crowned The special prize of the International Federation of Journalists and Writers of Wine and Spirits (FIJEV), presented Monday at the subterranean wine, international competition in Bourg-sur-Gironde, was awarded to Pillitteri Estates Winery for the Vidal Icewine […]

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