Way back in 2008, we decided to try our hand at our first ice wine.
Before I get further into our story, let me explain a bit about ice wines. For those who aren’t familiar, ice wines are made by allowing grapes to remain on the vine well after our regular harvest season into the cold winter months. They are generally harvested in December or even January, when the grapes are completely frozen. They are often picked very early in the morning, before the sun is able to thaw the frozen grapes. The grapes are then pressed while frozen. The water naturally occurring in the grape remains frozen, while the sugars do not. Pressing these frozen grapes results in a very small amount of extremely sweet juice (almost like nectar). This juice is fermented into a super special dessert wine.
So, back to the original story… back in 2008, rather than harvesting all of our Catawba grapes to go into our Cat Noir rosé wine, we left some grapes on the vine to freeze and be pressed into ice wine. In mid-December, before the grapes had a chance to freeze fully, the farmer from our neighboring farm mentioned to Gary that he had seen our crew out to pick the ice wine grapes. Our crew had not actually been out to harvest yet, since the grapes had not frozen fully on the vine.
Gary went into the vineyard, and, sure enough, most of the crop was gone. It probably wasn’t malicious, maybe the folks who picked the grapes just did not understand that they had not been “missed”, they were being saved for ice wine, but whatever the reason they picked them, many of the grapes we had left for ice wine were long gone. Before the thieves were able to return and completely clean out the vineyard, we decided to harvest what was left and make a late harvest wine.
Cool Cat was born
We harvested the grapes in the middle of a winter storm, when they were approximately 3/4 frozen. The resulting wine was our Cool Cat wine, a late harvest dessert style wine.
The grapes benefited from freezing and thawing on the vine, developing all kinds of luscious flavors. Some who tasted Cool Cat said they tasted strawberries, others said watermelon, still others tasted cranberry notes, but they all agreed—the resulting wine was delicious!
The wine was sweet and flavorful, and perfect for dessert. We enjoyed the wine so much, that “Cool Cat” late harvest wine has become a staple here at liberty, and we’ve made it ever since.
The 2014-2015 winter was so cold, that we decided to keep some grapes on the vine even longer and made our first true Ice Wine. The grapes were harvested by hand on January 6, 2015 at a very sweet 37 degrees Brix. The resulting ice wine as 21% by weight residual sugar, with the perfect balance of fruitiness and acidity. I love it to finish off a special dinner or celebration.
We were absolutely elated to find out that our very first ice wine was named “Best Dessert Wine” at the Florida State Fair International wine competition!
So next time you are looking for the perfect wine to end you meal, consider Cool Cat or Catawba Ice Wine. Delicious!