Cold weather heats up harvest for icewine grape growers

Far more grape growers have decided to pick frozen grapes for icewine this year compared to past years.

Far more grape growers have decided to pick frozen grapes for producing icewine this year in the Okanagan Valley compared to past years.

And last weekend’s   plunge in the temperature allowed and the first icewine grape harvesters to get an early start.

Stephen Cipes, with  Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, says they gathered about 10 p.m. Saturday night and began picking the frozen grapes until the temperature went up above the required minimum temperature of -8 C.

About 30 pickers—including regular employees, natives and neighbours—turned out and got three acres of 17 that have been saved from the regular harvest for production of icewine picked by about 1 a.m. on Sunday, he said. “Then we stayed up until 6 a.m. and ate pizza and watched the crush and the wine (juice) drip through,” said Cipes.

This year is the first time in several years Summerhill has saved any large acreage from the regular picking for icewine, because they had a backlog of the popular premium dessert wine.

For some growers, the first icewine harvest this year comes only days after completion of the regular grape harvest, which was very late this year.

Lindsay Kelm, of the B.C. Wine Institute, says it marks one of the earliest starts to the icewine harvest in B.C., second only to the Nov. 5 harvest in 2003.

This year, 26 wineries have said they will be picking frozen grapes for an expected 875 tons, the most ever projected for icewine in this province.

Two other wineries also picked icewine grapes last weekend, but the B.C. Wine Authority won’t release the names because it’s “proprietary information,” and the growers haven’t given permission.

The remainder of the icewine harvest will begin once temperatures plunge again, likely next month, commented Kelm.



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