Although the precursor of today’s ice wine is believed to go as far back as early Roman times, today’s vintners take their tradition of making ice wine from Germany and Austria where it became an industry a little over two centuries ago. This sweet dessert wine was named Eiswein, a title claimed by
German wine makers. Production of this winter delicacy started in the Finger Lakes region about 20 years ago when vintners realized this climate is perfectly suited to growing the Riesling, Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes that are key to ice wine.
The grapes are left to freeze on the vine throughout the winter until there is a hard freeze when the water in the grape freezes, but the juice does not. The grapes are then harvested by hand, although some Finger Lakes vintners are now making ice-style wines from grapes coaxed to freeze artificially in wineries.
White ice wines often have notes of pear, apricot, raisin, honey and caramel, and the reds hint of plum, cherry and berry jam. Ice wines are traditionally paired with various desserts such as fruit tarts, custard-type desserts and cheeses, particularly blue cheese.
If you’re an ice wine lover, or would like to enjoy your first taste, you might look for ice wines from the following Finger Lakes wineries that received awards in a recent state-wide NY ice wine competition held at Rochester Institute of Technology:
- Casa Larga Vineyards Vidal Blanc 2007 – Best of Show and Double Gold Medal
- Casa Larga Vineyards Riesling 2008 – Double Gold
- Casa Larga Cabernet Franc 2008 – Silver
- Fulkerson Cabernet Franc 2008 – Silver
- Hunt Country Vidal 2007 – Silver
- Heron Hill Riesling 2007 – Bronze
- Sheldrake Point Cabernet Franc 2008 – Bronze
- Sheldrake Point Riesling – Bronze
These wineries all accept online orders and their wines can also be found in fine wine stores throughout New York State and beyond.