Every winter, wine aficionados from around the globe satisfy their vinous sweet tooth by sampling the latest release of ice wines, a uniquely styled dessert wine made from frozen grapes. Given Ohio’s propensity for frosty weather early in the season, local wine lovers have developed a fondness for sipping sweeties crafted just a few miles down the road.
While Canada and Germany have long been known for producing stellar — but pricey — ice wines, all eyes (and palates) are enthusiastically watching new-kid Ohio’s sweet vineyards grow.
And while ice wines likely cost more than a quality table wine, the higher price is justified by the increasing demand, limited supply and the extra labor and risk involve in producing it.
Ice wine can be crafted from a variety of grapes, including Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc, which are left on the vine until they freeze. This extra time on the vine, or “hangtime,” causes the flavors and aromas to intensify. Once the grapes freeze, they are handpicked — often at night — and crushed immediately. The frozen water is left behind, while the skins and concentrated juice, full of natural sugars, is cool-fermented into flavorful wine.
So what makes Ohio ice wine so special? Ohio’s cold climate with long, warm falls and early winter freezing is similar to that of Canada and Germany, making it perfectly timed for creating internationally recognized ice wines.
Just the thing for holiday sipping or gift-giving, Ohio-made ice wine celebrates happy endings. Whether it marks the end of the meal, the end of the harvest or the end of the year, sharing something sweet around the table is one of life’s simple pleasures. Enjoy.
2004 Firelands Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Lake Erie ($30, 375 ml bottle): Rich apricot, honey and melon aromas with a silky mouthfeel and crisp acid on the finish make it a perfect partner for fruity desserts. Great for holiday gift-giving.
2004 St. Joseph Vineyard Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley, ($26, 375 ml bottle): Intense golden yellow hue with concentrated aromas of apricot, peach and pear. Full-bodied, creamy on the palate and supported by soft acidity, it is great served alone as a dessert.
2004 Valley Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Ohio River Valley ($25, 375 ml bottle): Delicate aromas of apple, citrus and apricots with a hint of floral; full-bodied and creamy with crisp acidity winning out on the sugar at the end, from the first winery in Ohio to make ice wine.
2004 Ferrante Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley ($28, 375 ml bottle): Lean and clean with honeysuckle, apple, apricot and melon aromas. Crisp lemony acidity gives the sugar a run for its money; it is perfect for pairing with fruit tarts and berry desserts.
2004 Debonné Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley ($31, 375 ml bottle): Rich, round and creamy with pear and nectarlike aromas and refreshing acidity. The eye-catching label, created by celebrated Cleveland artist Hector Vega, makes this a perfect holiday gift.
2004 Viking Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, ($33, 375 ml bottle): Intense sweet aromas include apricot, peach and honey with a good dose of acidity on the palate. Available only from the winery, this aromatic ice wine is worth the trip to the online store.