Ice wine is basically the adult beverage version of turning lemons into lemonade. Long after the traditional fall grape harvest, a handful of ambitious vineyards leave some fruit on the vine awaiting winter’s first arctic blast. Once the temps drop below 17℉, those grapes freeze — and the painstaking work begins.
Using frozen grapes, which are normally considered ruined, leaves little room for error. The rock-hard grapes must be picked at just the right moment and immediately pressed to yield a syrupy juice. But only a little. Some offer up just a single drop of the sweet stuff. It takes A LOT of grapes — and up to six months of fermentation — for a batch of ice wine. And, some years, none gets made at all due to temperature variations. Trust us, nothing comes easy in the ice wine biz.
But good things come to those who wait. The finished product is a super-sweet dessert wine that pairs perfectly with soft cheeses, mousse or even cheesecake. You know, all the major food groups.
We don’t always love the bone-chilling winters here in Northeast Ohio, but — in this case — we’ll make an exception. Those cold winds blowing off Lake Erie make for ideal ice wine conditions. Several wineries near Cleveland, particularly in the Grand River Valley, boast ice wine that goes toe-to-toe with whatever Europe’s got to offer. Now, let’s go pound some grape Elsa-style.