Winterizing at Sheldrake Point Winery (Wine of the Week: Ice Wine)

BY JAMES HASSON While farmers stow away root vegetables and sow fields for spring, Sheldrake Point Winery on the slopes of Cayuga Lake considers frigid winter another season to produce. Every year since 2000, some of its most resilient Riesling and Cabernet Franc grapes have staked out the cold winds of the Finger Lakes for its annual ice wine.

To make this seasonal dessert wine, winemakers must wait for the right night temperature, between 15 and 18 degrees. That’s because grapes must freeze and thaw repeatedly before getting pressed. (Too cold, and the ice on the grapes becomes too dense to press; too warm, and most of the ice will melt off.)

Once the temperature is just right, harvesting begins, and that typically means around 5:30 in the morning in a race against the warmth of daylight. Then it’s time to press the grapes and ferment them for four to six weeks, much longer than typical wine, which makes for a sweeter, dessert-like wine, with time to develop more sugar content.

Sheldrake’s 2010 Riesling Ice has already won “Best North American Riesling” in Australia, and is expected to be available in the upcoming spring. But you can still get a sip of their 2008, a refined complexity of peach, lemon and orange peel that ages well in the cellar. $50, sheldrakepoint.com.


James Hasson is an intern at Edible Finger Lakes.

 

 

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