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Central Okanagan  

Grape time for ice wine

Yes, it's cold this week. But did you know it's cold enough to pick grapes for ice wine?

While most of us are bundling up and muttering under our breaths, local wineries are enjoying the second earliest pick on record. The earliest harvest in BC was November 5, 2003.

For some vineyards including Tantalus and Inniskillin Okanagan it is the earliest they've ever harvested frozen grapes.

“This is the earliest ice wine pick we have on record at this winery, and in many ways that is a good thing,” shares an excited manager of Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna, Jane Hatch.

She says the pick not only marks the official end to a long season in the vineyard, but also promises a wonderful end product.

“Most important it is the condition of the grapes when you have an early pick like this,” says Hatch. “I mean they are in beautiful condition, they are pristine, they haven't broken down yet. Typically the juice we press off from these early picks is just very pure, the flavours are very pure, the juice is clear and we get a really lovely product from that."

A thought shared by Inniskillin Okanagan winemaker Derek Kontkanen who says an early harvest has great advantages.

“You don't lose as much fruit to the birds, dehydration and what falls off the vines, so you get better yields,” says Kontkanen whose crews picked their grapes early Wednesday morning.

The pickers began at 3 a.m., when temperatures in the Oliver vineyard reached -12.2˚C.

“Temperatures were ideal so we took advantage of the opportunity. The fruit quality on our table wines this year was fantastic so it should carry over to our ice wine fairly easily.

Some Kelowna area wineries began their picks Wednesday night, including crews from Quails Gate Winery.

“We do tend to pick a little earlier than other parts of the Valley, and we have picked in November before, but if you had asked me if I thought we would be picking barely mid-November I would have thought no, that is too early,” laughs Hatch.

For a winery to meet ice wine standards the grapes can't be picked until there is a sustained temperature of -8°C. The grapes must be frozen solid.

According to the BC Wine Authority, 29 BC wineries are registered to pick 931 tons of ice wine grapes from an estimated 235 acres. 

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