“It’s our first and I would almost guess we won’t get lucky enough to do it again for another 10 years,” said wine maker Mike Pearson.
According to Canadian standards for ice wine making, grapes must freeze on the vine in temperatures below 18 degrees Fahrenheit, Pearson said. They must also be harvested and pressed in those temperatures.
“In the states people cheat and stick them in the freezer
but we’re traditional folks.”
Last November, they planned to make a late harvest Riesling with grapes still on the vines. When the forecast predicted an unusual cold snap of below 14 degrees for three days, they realized they had the ideal conditions for making ice wine, Pearson said.
They gathered a handful of people to help harvest the grapes that froze as hard as marbles. The freeze concentrates the grape’s sugars. When pressed the liquid is thick, like honey, and has similar flavors, Pearson said. The end taste is sweet and very concentrated.
“It’s good with Brie and as a dessert wine. You just need a splash. It’s a sipping drink.”
Ice wine is difficult to make because of the variety of conditions that must come together. One of the biggest problems is birds eating the crop before a freeze. Elsewhere in the Northwest, the same freeze damaged vineyards reducing this year’s crop, Pearson said. This year, because of the unusually hot summer, Colter’s Creek harvested its Riesling grapes early to prevent them from becoming overripe.
Even when the conditions are right, ice wine yields much less wine per acre. Where a ton of grapes can yield 170 gallons in warm weather; with ice wine you’re lucky to get 50 to 70 gallons, Pearson explained. For these reasons ice wine is typically more expensive than other wines.
Colter’s Creek’s gamble paid off. The wine won a Double Gold medal at the Idaho Wine Competition held in Caldwell in September.
Colter’s Creek 2014 Ice Wine is $25 for a 200 milliliter bottle available at its Juliaetta tasting room during open hours, or by calling (208) 276-3342.