Winter has made its way to New York’s Finger Lakes with full gusto. With lake effect snow rolling freely over the region’s vineyards, winemakers in the area were only thinking one thing: it’s finally time for the ice wine harvest.
While the wine harvest has come in late this year, workers don’t waste any time taking to the vineyards, donning thick gloves as they pick frozen bunches of grapes that will soon be pressed into extra-sweet juice within a mater of hours.
At Hunt Country Vineyards, they are known for their cold-pressed sweet line, that is quickly becoming a specialty for vineyards across upstate New York. However, the specialty often has to wait on the seasons, which are hardly predictable.
It was probably the most stressful year that we’ve ever had. It’s the latest that we’ve ever picked,” said vineyard owner Art Hunt in an interview with NBC 4 New York. As he spoke to the camera, Hunt stood over a bin of grapes, lightly dusted in snow.
As he picks up and eats a frozen grape, Hunt remarks that eating them is like “biting into the finest sorbet.” Indeed, while June is the most popular month for ice cream and other frozen desserts, there’s no reason not to get your sorbet fix in such a fresh and immediate manner.
The process for ice wine harvests is anything but idyllic. Oftentimes, these grapes have been left on the vine through the fall. As temperatures drop, the water in the grapes freezes, producing a thicker, more concentrated juice — with 38% more sugar than regular white table wines — and resulting in a sweeter, heavier, and pricier product.
While the origins of ice wine can be found in regions such as Germany and Canada, it is a niche industry in the United States, confined to New York, Ohio, and Michigan. The Finger Lakes has more than half a dozen wineries that devote some of their grapes to the production of ice wine.