BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — While daytime temperatures in the teens have most of western New York scrambling for warmth, some regional wine producers say they’ve been waiting for this.
The rest of the world is banking on these temperatures; they lead to the production of ice wine.
“You’ve got it. There are very few places in the world that can do this. Germany is one, Canada is another, and New York State is number three on the list.” Jonathan Oakes, grape grower and wine maker for Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina said.
While workers persevered in gathering what looked like dried grapes that easily shook loose from the vines, they had temperatures near zero degrees to cope with. Oakes said they can have a hard time finding people willing to do the work.
“It’s an extreme scenario, but granted most of us around here are used to doing things a little bit to the extreme anyway. We live in western New York,” he said.
And conditions have to be just right.
“We’re looking for 18 degrees for a minimum of four hours before we even consider picking. We want to maintain below 18 as we process the fruit and press it out for the next couple days,” Oakes said.
From that point, the pressing is done in the same day. It usually takes 6 to 8 hours, the juice is fermented for a period of roughly two months before it’s bottled. For the growers, it is a risky crop. There are no guarantees.
Wendy Oakes Wilson, president of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, said the risk can be worth it, but the value drastically decreases if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
And just like every wine, ice wines can vary.
“The wine differs due to wine maker and growing conditions as well as the varietal that you are using. We here at Leonard Oakes, we use Vidal Blanc,” Oakes Wilson said.
And the market is expanding, making the value even higher. Oakes Wilson said they just sent their first order of ice wine to Europe — where ice wine began — and she says there’s a huge market developing in southeast Asia.
But for those who haven’t ever had it, the Leonard Oakes Estate team described what it tastes like, at least from their winery.
“We get all the luscious characters of peach, apricot and honey. It transforms into this unique product,” Oakes said.