After last vintage's second-earliest start on record on Nov. 19 and 20, 2011, the majority of the Icewine harvest in the Okanagan was on Jan. 11 and 12, 2013. Harvested at minus 8°Celsius or below, the wine made from these frozen grapes must reach quality standards including 35 Brix of sugar to be called true Icewine.
While some Icewine was harvested in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2013, the majority of the Icewine harvest continued just a few weeks later from 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 11, continuing to the early morning hours of Jan. 12, ending at about 5:00 a.m. The BC Wine Authority noted that 27 of the 31 potential wineries picked that weekend, collecting approximately 450 tons of frozen grapes. Temperatures during harvest ranged from -9° to -14° Celsius, and the harvest was spread around the Okanagan Valley, from north to south.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna picked 6.25 tons of Zweigelt for Icewine at the Summerhill Vineyard and Eidse Brothers Vineyard on Friday night, beginning at 12:00 a.m. in minus 11° weather. The grapes were at 42 Brix at pressing - much above the requirement of minimum of 35 Brix. Unfortunately, the winery was too late for their Chardonnay Icewine grapes. Summerhill's CEO Ezra Cipes explained that "deer and birds ate our entire crop of Chardonnay Icewine this year, despite netting the grapes to protect them." The wildlife also reduced the amount of Zweigelt Icewine available as they ate about three quarters of the potential harvest. Cipes explained that the winery has no deer fencing to protect the grapes and also has a nature preserve on the property - perfect for a family of deer.
Van Westen Vineyards in Naramata began picking their Icewine at 2:00 a.m. on Jan. 12. With temperatures at -11°, the inner cluster berries were thoroughly frozen. By 4:00 p.m. that day, the temperature had warmed to -6°and the team was still pressing frozen grapes. The winery picked about 1.7 tons of Icewine overall.
Oliver's Tinhorn Creek Vineyards picked their Kerner Icewine at 5:00 AM on Saturday, Jan. 12. The winery reports that they also picked their Icewine on the same day in 2012 - Jan. 12.
The Icewine varieties picked are diverse in the Okanagan Valley, ranging from aromatic whites to tannic reds. Jan. 11 and 12 saw the following grapes picked for Icewine, in order for highest tonnage: Riesling (132), Merlot (77), Cabernet Franc (36), Pinot Gris (35), Chardonnay (35), Zweigelt (34), Viognier (33), Pinot Noir (25), Sauvignon Blanc (25), Ehrenfelser (8), Cabernet Sauvignon (4), Kerner (3.5), Oraniensteiner (1.5), Syrah (1), Lemburger (1), Pinot Blanc (1), Pinot Auxerrois (1), Semillon (0.5), and Muscat (0.5).
With the Icewine harvest begun, palates across BC can look forward to new Icewine releases in 2013.
For updates on the harvest, follow @winebcdotcom, #Icewine and #BCwine on Twitter.
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