The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 3, 2013

Conditions come together for ice wine production

Star Beacon

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —  The stars, and the clouds, came together for wine makers late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

Near perfect weather conditions are needed to produce ice wine. Well perfect if you are a penguin.

“There is a linear relationship between the temperature and the  yield and sugar content,” said Gene Sigel, vineyard manager at South River Winery and Chalet Debonne.

The “perfect weather” is 16 to 17 degrees for six hours, Sigel said. Occasionally the weather cooperates for daytime picking but usually it occurs in the middle of the night.

“There is a sweet spot around 17 degrees when you get good sugar levels and good production,” Sigel said.

It became clear the weather was right around 10:30 Wednesday evening and the crew of volunteers and employees went to work at South River Winery, Sigel said.

“We finished picking around 4:30 a.m.,” he said.

Sigel said they have been making ice wine for 12 years and it is a trial and error process. “Pressing ice wine is sort of artistic,” he said.

“Every year we get a group of volunteers (but) we don’t get a lot of repeat volunteers,” Sigel said.

Jeremy Welker has been helping produce ice wine for six years at South River Winery.

“Most people don’t want to come back...You are knee deep in snow,” he said.

Sigel said South River Winery has a special press that applies 4,500 pounds of pressure per square inch. He said you get 19 to 20 gallons of ice wine per ton of grapes.

Sigel said the wine sells for $80 a gallon and is produced in Germany and France but Canada took the lead in the 1970s. “The real Mecca is in Canada,” he said.

South Rivery Winery was fortunate to have their grapes survive. “Even with a bad frost we still had a good crop,” he said.

 Sigel said the winery was fortunate a major hailstorm missed their property and the drought didn’t destroy the grapes.