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Earliest ice wine harvest in quarter century

Summerhill Pyramid Winery volunteers started the annual ice wine grape harvest early this morning, Nov. 6, 2017. It's the earliest harvest in more than 25 years.
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November 06, 2017 - 12:59 PM

KELOWNA – For one Okanagan winery the early cold snap has let them harvest their ice wine grapes earlier than they have since the early 1990s.

At 1:30 a.m. today, Nov. 6, around a dozen volunteers donned jackets, toques and scarves for the annual midnight harvest of ice wine grapes at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna.

It happened exactly one month earlier than last year, and general manager Eric von Krosigk says it’s the earliest they’ve been able to pick grapes for ice wine since around 1993 when the temperature went from 15 Celsius to -10 C on Oct. 12.

“Some memories don’t fade,” he says.

This year, around 30 volunteers were put on call last Friday, but von Krosigk says only a dozen showed up this morning.

“(The call) came at 1:30 a.m. so we expected everybody to be a little bit tardy,” he says. “There’s a rhythm to these things and some people maybe weren’t ready.”

Ice wine is made from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine before they are picked and the juice extracted immediately. The temperature has to stay below - 7 C throughout the process so it’s usually done at night.

Last year dozens of Summerhill volunteers braved -17 C weather for the annual midnight harvest, which didn’t begin until Dec. 6.

Wineries had to wait until January to harvest in 2012, in 2013 they started during the last week of November and the 2014 harvest was just a few days before that.

In 2015 volunteers went out the week of Nov. 26, which is close to the average.

Von Krosigk says all the forest fire smoke in the air this summer actually helped the vines by keeping the heat down and for the first time since he can remember, ice wine grapes were harvested in Kelowna at the same time as in Osoyoos.

“Normally they’re three weeks ahead in Osoyoos, but this year we were on par because everything was late,” he says. “We’re really lucky. The fruit got super ripe this year. There are some intense flavours coming out.”

Von Krosigk says volunteers will be out again tonight, if it’s cold enough.

“You never know,” he says. “The weather has been so fickle lately it can shift any which way.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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