‘Tis the season to harvest ice wine

"Fruit quality was great for the table wines and I can see the great potential in the fruit harvested this morning."

  • Nov. 13, 2014 3:00 p.m.

BC’s annual Icewine harvest got off to a very early start this year, with cold temperatures prompting two wineries to start picking grapes on the second earliest day on record.

The earliest harvest on record in BC was November 5, 2003.

While this year’s harvest so far has been limited to just two wineries whose mercury dipped and sustained below the required -8˚C and whose grapes reached the required 35 Brix, there are 29 wineries registered with the BC Wine Authority to pick an estimated 931 standard tons of Icewine grapes on an estimated 235 acres.

For Inniskillin Okanagan this was the earliest Icewine harvest on record. Winemaker Derek Kontkanen said his crew began picking Riesling at 3 AM when temperatures in the Oliver vineyard had reached -12.2˚C. Based on the 40 tons of fruit they brought in, he is expecting the quality of the wine to be very high.

“It is a great way to cap off an excellent year,” says Kontkanen. “Fruit quality was great for the table wines and I can see the great potential in the fruit harvested this morning.”

Another Okanagan-based winery harvested 10 tons of grapes starting at 4 AM when vineyard temperatures reached -9˚C, according to the BC Wine Authority, which regulates Icewine.

Many other Okanagan wineries are closely watching their thermometers and planning to have crews picking for Icewine tonight and tomorrow.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery* in Kelowna, which is planning to start harvest at midnight tonight, says the early season for Icewine is simply an extension of what has been an amazing vintage.

“Icewine is something we can do better here in the Okanagan than anywhere else on earth,” says Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill Pyramid Winery. “To make outstanding Icewine you need to start with outstanding grapes, and 2014 was one of the best Okanagan growing seasons ever. Now to have this cold snap so early in November, and harvest our Icewine grapes before the birds get them is making us all smile and sing around the winery. This is a blessed vintage.”

Jane Hatch, manager of Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna, says the Icewine harvest it is the perfect end to the season.

“Icewine is all about celebration. For the people who grow and make it, it’s a celebration of the end of a very long season,” says Hatch. “For our loyal customers, it’s the ultimate treat to cap off a celebratory occasion with family and friends.”

Echoing the expectations of other Okanagan wineries, Hatch is anticipating a quality harvest when her pickers head out into the vineyard at 4 AM tomorrow morning.

“If all goes according to plan this will be our earliest Icewine pick ever,” she says. “The grapes are in pristine condition and the resulting juice will be clear and very, very pure. I can’t wait to see it finished and in the bottle.”

Wineries that have decided to forgo the Icewine designation have already started picking grapes for Late Harvest wines — a designation that allows wineries to pick grapes ideal for dessert-style wines without having to adhere to the standards of Icewine.


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