Mother Nature dictates time to harvest frozen ice wine grapes & it's early this year

on 14/12/10 at 11:52 am


If you found these grapes, brown and frozen like rocks, in the dark recesses of your refrigerator, you’d probably throw them out.

Bob Mazza knows better.

Since 1984, he’s been making ice wine, a specialty dessert wine, pressed from frozen-on-the-vine grapes that are prized for their concentrated sugar content.Mother Nature, not the growers, dictates the schedule of the annual harvest. Ice wine can’t legally be given that name until the grapes have been frozen on the vine at something less than 17 degrees.

Sometimes that doesn’t happen until mid-January or later. It happened on Monday this year, and Mazza was ready. The process, followed by only a handful of Pennsylvania wineries, began again Monday.

By 1 p.m., with temperatures in the low teens and a biting wind blowing off Lake Erie, Mazza had assembled about 20 people, most buried beneath layers of sweatshirts, jackets, hats and hoods, to begin picking frozen clusters of vidal blancs from the vineyard behind his winery on East Lake Road.

“These are beautiful,” he said of the grapes, which hung in heavy bunches beneath a mesh netting designed to keep the birds away. “In another month, they might not look so pretty.”

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