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Snooth User: John Andrews

Ice Wine

Original post by John Andrews, Dec 12, 2008.

° ° Recently one of our other bloggers here on Snooth, Callie Exas, posted a blog on dessert wines .  This is a great blog that outlines what to expect from dessert wines and what they are.  However, (no offence Callie) I felt a little bit snubbed.  You see, I am Canadian and one of the sources of national pride for Canadians is Ice Wine.  Okay, it follows right after hockey, beer, beavers and Michael J. Fox but it is still a source of national pride.  So to make sure that ice wine does its fair share of ‘Snooth Time’ I’m taking this chance to give you the 411.

So what is an Ice Wine?  Using Wikipedia for a concise definition you get this:

According to Wikipedia, the first ice wines were produced in Germany in 1794.  However, ice wines have a much shorter history than that.  The modern history of ice wine begins in 1984 with the first ‘intentional’ production.  It was first produced in Canada by a winery called Inniskillin.  The market grew strong domestically and stared with a white grape called Vidal (or Vidal Blanc).  Other than in ice wine, Vidal’s natural acidity makes it suitable for a wide range of styles, from light and crisp with racy acid, to slightly off-dry.  As the popularity grew, more wineries started to produce ice wines and started use grapes other than Vidal.

What makes an ice wine different from other dessert wines is the fact that the grapes must ‘freeze’.  That is they need to experience three days straight of temperatures below   0° Celsius or one day of -8 ° Celsius.  Additionally, the grapes should be picked at high level of sugar; at 35 ° Brix (normally table wines in California are picked at 24 to 26 Brix).  In contrast, late harvest wines are wines created from grapes picked later in the season with higher than normal Brix.  Sauternes, the famous French dessert wine, comes not from cold but a fungus called botrytis.  However, all of them are known for sweetness and high alcohol.

For me ice wines that are made properly and with care are some of the best dessert wines in the world.  They display depth with multiple layers of flavor.  There is great acidity that allows it to be paired with rich foods like Foie Gras.  Personally, a good Riesling ice wine pairs incredibly well with cheese cake or crème bruelee.  They are definitely worth a try.  Here are a few of my pics:
Peller Estates Riesling Ice Wine

Peller Estates Cab Franc Ice Wine

Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine

Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine

Stratus Riesling Ice Wine

John Andrews is a software product manager during the week and is a professional Tasting Room staffer at Loxton Cellars in Glen Ellen, CA on the weekends.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 16, 2008.

Ahem, Alaska already produces Ice-wine.

The grapes may come from somewhere else but the wine is made in Alaska!

Reply by Philip James, Dec 16, 2008.

Denali Winery! Thats fantastic... I knew every state had at least one winery, including Hawaii. Anyone care to guess one of the wineries names?...

Well, unsurprisingly, its Volcano Winery:

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 16, 2008.

Tedeschi! but that's not fair since I used to live down the road!

The Maui pineapple wine is actually surprisingly good!

Reply by John Andrews, Dec 16, 2008.

Crap ... another idea stolen!

Okay, we'll move a little bit east and make wine in the Yukon Territory of Canada. We can call our riesling ice wine ... wait for it ... Yukon Gold!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 16, 2008.

Now that is awesome!

Reply by ChipDWood, Dec 17, 2008.

I was fortunate enough to know a rep from Inniskillin and got to try the Riesling, the Vidal, and the Cab Franc- all of which blew me away.

I've had some pretty "unctuous" and loamy dessert wines- including both the MR. K Straw & Noble "Men" from Sine Qua Non ( but for my penny I enjoyed the smooth & thick-yet-not-pasty viscosity of the Inniskillin wines nearly as much, though they're dramatically less bread.

The Riesling was probably my fave, though the Franc was the higher priced. Liquid gold from the Great White North.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Dec 17, 2008.

@Philip & Gregory
Having been to both Volcano and Tedeschi a few years back, I have to say that Tedeschi's Maui Blanc pineapple wine was remarkably good. Besides, Maui is a much cooler island.

I wonder if either winery has figured out how to make good (and not just workmanlike) wines from vinifera grapes yet!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 17, 2008.

I was back last year. The wines are better than they were in the late 80's early 90's but still only fair to middling. Whites more promising than the reds. For now I will still go with Maui Blanc! Mmmm pineapple!

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