TOWNSHIP OF HARPERSFIELD – A lack of wind helped make an early morning harvest a pleasant experience, even though temperatures were in the teenage years, said Cindy Lindberg, owner of Grand River Cellars.
“It was probably one of the best selection seasons we’ve had,” said Lindberg.
The ice wine process begins at a different time each year, but the temperatures must be very cold. That usually means pickers go to the fields early in the morning to get the fruit in optimal condition to keep the sugars in the grapes, wine professionals in the area have said.
Saturday morning met the criteria as temperatures were around 18 degrees at 5 a.m. and then dropped to 12 degrees later in the morning, said Gene Sigel, owner of South River Winery and vineyard master for Chalet DeBonne.
The icewine making process has been a cooperative process for the region’s wineries for many years, the region’s winery owners said. A variety of cooperative relationships exist, including Ferrante Winery pressing grapes for Kosicek Winery, said Calin Lechinten, cellar manager for Ferrante Winery.
Lindberg said the industry learned the need for cooperation when they worked together to host the first Icewine Festival 20 years ago. Four other wineries work together to produce wine from grapes harvested from a specific area of Harpersfield Township.
South River Winery, Grand River Cellars, Cask 307 and Debonne Vineyards work together on ice wines. About twenty people, including a few volunteers and vineyard employees, gathered early Saturday morning to hand-pick the grapes that will be used in the production of ice wine.
Several cellar workers in the area gathered early Saturday morning to begin the picking process, but were able to work without the cold winds that normally blow over the area, Lindberg said.
At Ferrante Winery, heavy machinery was put into service to harvest Vidal grapes from the region’s fields to be pressed on site. The headlights of the grape pickers could be seen in the fields before the sun came out on the horizon.
The harvest at the Ferrante cellar began to end around 7 a.m. The grapes were then placed in vats and pressed to extract the juice needed to make the extra sweet wines, a process that ended in the early afternoon.
Sigel said the wines aren’t the best sellers for wineries in the region, but they help draw people to the area. “It really resonates with customers,” he said.