The Okanagan ice wine harvest isn’t looking so hot

With spring being just around the corner, ice wine makers are hoping for a cold snap

- Image: Grant Stoven                                Ezra Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

- Image: Grant Stoven Ezra Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

Winery owners around the Okanagan are crossing their fingers and hoping temperatures will drop so they can harvest ice wine grapes.

Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, said the winery has been making ice wine since 1991 and only had one year—1993—where ice wine couldn’t be made due to warm temperatures.

But this winter has made it difficult for harvesters.

“Here in Kelowna, it didn’t get to the required -8 C, not on our farm. It got to -7.5 C for four hours,” Cipes said. “We haven’t picked anything, We have 12 acres (of grapes) hanging, a little in Lake Country, a little in Oliver and a little at our home block here in Kelowna, and they are all waiting.”

READ MORE: Icewine harvest begins for some Okanagan wineries

“We’re adding extra clips and extra nets. There are deer and racoons and other animals that want to come and eat the grapes and we’re doing our best to secure them and keep them in the vineyards,” he said.

If the grapes can’t be harvested for ice wine, they’ll be harvested at the beginning of March to create another wine, Cipes said. While some Okanagan wineries began their harvest in mid-December, freezing temperatures didn’t last long, according to a Wines of British Columbia news release.

Last year saw the earliest start to the ice wine harvest in 10 years.

READ MORE: Cold temperatures means early ice wine

“Ice wine is really specific. It’s about the purity of the fruit, the essence of the fruit coming out because the water is frozen and in this case, the grape (when it hasn’t been harvested) is dried out and has changed quite a bit, so it’s a different character,” Cipes said.

There’s always a risk for wineries to make ice wine as it’s difficult to produce.

“Ice wine is a ridiculous thing to make, even in a sort of a ‘normal year’… and it’s risky and expensive and you get a very small yield. Part of the prestige of the product is the extremes you have to go through to make it, so missing a harvest and not getting it in a year is part of the appeal and the value is the ice wine. It’s part of the deal, you don’t know if you’re going to get it,” Cipes said.

“The vineyards are the only ones in the Okanagan Valley praying for very cold weather. Everyone else is happy.”

He estimated about 42 tonnes of grapes are waiting to be harvested, but that number was determined at the start of the season. The crop diminishes over the season as it’s eaten by animals, drops off the vines and dries up.

This is historically the end of the time for ice wine grape harvesting.

”(It will be) late ice wine harvest, if we get one, but we know since 1993 it’s possible to not get one,” said Cipes. ” We know this has happened, I don’t want to jinx us, but we might be due to miss a harvest.”

Kelowna’s forecast for the next week is expected to be sunny with periods of snow and a high of 3 C. The lowest temperatures are expected to be reached next Tuesday, with a high of just -2 C.

The winery sells four types of ice wine: Ehrenfelser Icewine, Library Series Merlot Icewine, Merlot Icewine and Zweigelt Icewine. They range in price from just under $100 to $170.

“Unlike other ice wine-producing regions of Canada and the world that experience these cold climatic conditions each year, ice wine harvest in B.C. is a rarity. The Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley are the only wine regions to regularly experience these temperatures in B.C., but it is never a guarantee. Producers wait in anticipation each year for temperatures to drop, not knowing if or when they will have a window of opportunity to complete an ice wine harvest that vintage,” BC Wine institute said.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 vaccination set to start for B.C. seniors aged 80-plus

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Chris Paulson of Burns Lake took a quick selfie with a lynx over the weekend of Feb. 20-22, 2021, after the wild cat was found eating some of his chickens. (Chris Paulson/Facebook)
VIDEO: Burns Lake man grabs lynx by scruff after chickens attacked

‘Let’s see the damage you did, buddy,’ Chris Paulson says to the wild cat

Design work continues for planned new hospital

Construction contract still in the works

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

(Pxhere)
Compensation fund opens for B.C. students negatively affected by incorrect exam marks

Marks for 2019 provincial exams were incorrectly tabulated

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Time to check the mail: Every household to receive a Canada Post postcard this spring

Postcard can be mailed for free to any address in Canada

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

Most Read