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Nearly two months after the second-earliest start on record for the Icewine harvest, Mother Nature has once again provided us with the sub-zero temperatures required to produce the “liquid gold.”
While the first Icewine grapes of 2011 were brought in by Summerhill Pyramid Organic Winery on November 19 and 20, the cold temperatures did not last. The second round of Icewine picking began on January 10 as the overnight temperatures hovered between -9°C (15.8°F) and -12°C (10.4°F).
Rollingdale Winery in West Kelowna began picking their Icewine grapes at 11 p.m., January 10 and completed their estate harvest at 6 a.m., January 11. Proprietor Steve Dale notes that the winery pressed 550 litres of Pinot Gris and 80 litres of Chardonnay from their estate vineyard and, although there will be some very tasty Icewine from Rollingdate this year, there won’t be as much as he had hoped. Birds ate a significant amount of fruit, despite the vineyards being netted.
As the freezing temperatures continued, more than 14 wineries between Vernon and Osoyoos took advantage to harvest over 340 tons of fruit between 11 p.m. on January 11 and 7 a.m. on January 12.
Kalala Organic Estate Winery in West Kelowna started their harvest overnight January 12 as well, bringing in approximately 70 tons of Zweigelt, Riesling and Merlot. With temperatures rising that day, they still had an estimated 40 tons to harvest. Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna brought in half an acre of Syrah at 5:30 A.M. January 12. Winemaker David Paterson noted that “the juice is amazingly deep, viscous and concentrated.”
In the South Okanagan, Nk’Mip Cellars harvested five tons of Riesling overnight. Winemaker Randy Picton noted that the fruit came in at 40 brix, which is ideal, resulting in what he expects will be a very good year for Icewine quality.
In Oliver, Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winemaker Derek Kontkanen and his team. picked 10 tons of Riesling just after 2 a.m. on January 12 in their Whitetail vineyard, while the team at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards brought in 3.6 tons of Kerner around 7 a.m., January 12.
There are still several wineries that have not yet completed their 2011 Icewine harvest. With freezing temperatures expected overnight January 12 and into the third week in January, growers hope that all the grapes will make it off the vine this month.