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During the winter of the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, the winters grow cold and frost develops – the perfect climate for the wintertime harvest of ice wine. Freezing temperatures as early as the fall season can cause a vineyard to lose its crop, but when temperatures fall between 8.6 degrees and 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, when the grape has completely ripened, the magic of creating ice wine can occur.
To create the perfect conditions for this wintertime harvest, winegrowers must pluck the grapes in the middle of the night, when the temperatures are right and the grapes have matured and become frozen. Then, the precious cargo is handled carefully and pressed to extract the juice while still frozen. The amount of sugar and flavor found in these frozen grapes are two to three times higher than that of a harvest gathered earlier in the season. Because of the precious few drops each grape yields, it can take an entire vine to create one 375 ml bottle of dessert wine. Even the fermenting process is a slow one, lasting several months until the fermenting process stops on its own.
But the results are worth it. The final result is an intense, sweet wine with the perfect balance of acidity to entice the palette.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|