The Okanagan region in BC is Canada’s optimal area for making wines of all kinds, with perfect conditions for vineyards during the summers. But during the winters, some wineries also have the opportunity to create a uniquely sweet and rich drink called ice wine.
This rare nectar adheres to very strict standards, and can only be made in a select few places around the world. The unique experience of this vino makes it a treat that all oenophiles should try at least once in their lives, which makes it a perfect gift idea for the oenophile in your life.
Everything You Need To Know About Ice Wine
Ice Wine vs. Dessert Wine
Although all ice wines are considered dessert wines, not all dessert wines can be called ice wines. These wines are produced in a very specific way, where the grapes are picked and pressed while frozen, whereas dessert wine grapes may be frozen after being harvested. If the water inside the frozen grape from an ice wine harvest melts and dilutes the concentrated winter nectar, it must be labelled as “late harvest” instead of “ice wine.”
How Ice Wine Is Produced
Making ice wine requires using frozen grapes that have chilled directly on the vine. Winemakers pick the grapes by hand when the air temperature hits -8°C, sometimes even in the middle of the night. The sugars inside the grapes are concentrated by the freeze, making them as sweet as nectar without any artificial aid. The grapes are also pressed while they’re still frozen to preserve this sweetness. Only Vitis vinifera varieties or Vidal Blanc can be used to make this delicious wine, and no artificial methods of concentrating the sugars or refrigerating the grapes, grape must, or grape juice is allowed. The list of regulations that go into the production of these drinks goes on and on – if you’re interested in learning more, check out this page.
Fun Fact: It takes around 5 times the amount of grapes to make just one 375ml bottle of ice wine than it does to make your average 750ml bottle of table wine.
As you can see, these wines are extremely difficult to produce, and must meet the strict standards of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), which is why only a select few wineries around the Okanagan feature this unique drink. Below we’ve compiled a list of three vineyards in the South Okanagan, and three in Kelowna where you can try this mouth-watering vino this winter.
Where To Get South Okanagan Ice Wine
Inniskillin & Jackson-Triggs
These two wineries from the Okanagan Valley have joined forces to create a premium winery and tasting experience all in one place. Inniskillin is one of the world’s most popular brands for this delicious drink, and for good reason. They’re dedicated to producing top class production every year, monitoring the weather to ensure ideal harvest times. There’s no better place to be introduced to the interesting history of this drink and other kinds of table wine, along with the unique ways to enjoy it than with a tasting experience from Inniskillin & Jackson-Triggs.
Nk’Mip Cellars produces a delicious Riesling Ice Wine with grapes harvested right here in Osoyoos. You’ll find a variety of tasting experiences and tours available where you can try this drink or simply buy some for yourself. They also host various dinners such as the Winter Solstice Dinner on December 17th and the Sweetheart Dinner on February 11th, where you can pair this delicious nectar with dessert.
The Gehringer Brothers have been making award-winning Riesling Ice Wines for years in the Okanagan Valley, with grapes for their 2019 Riesling picked at -10°C while the berries are frozen solid. Their pressing process results in natural concentration, with no altering of the delicate, sweet, and fruity flavours. You can reserve a tasting in their split tasting room although there’s no guarantee that this type of wine will be offered in the portfolio. The safest bet is to simply buy yours while you’re there or order online for curbside or in-person pickup.
Ice Wine Found In Kelowna Wineries
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Summerhill Pyramid Winery offers a variety of both red and white ice wines to those looking to try some variations of this unique beverage. From Riesling, to Pinot Noir, and Zweigelt ice wines, you’ll find something for everyone at this winery. With tastings open from 10am to 6pm, 7 days a week year-round, you can drop by for a taste any time or reserve your own Pyramid Experience Tour. While you’re there, with the holiday season on the horizon, make sure you pick up a bottle of this rare drink for the oenophile in your life.
Kalala Organic Estate Winery
Kalala Organic Estate Winery also boasts a range of ice wines including Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Zweigelt. This award winning winery is located on the upper bench of West Kelowna, and their tasting room is open almost year-round (closed from December 25th to January 17th). Although reservations are recommended, they also accept walk-ins with wait times depending on occupancy.
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery offers a 2014 Riesling Ice Wine that can be bought in their store or online. Although their terrace restaurant is closed for the winter season, their winery is still open for tastings daily, by reservation. They own a variety of vineyard estates that give them access to over 30 diverse microclimates, some of which produce delicious wines. These are sourced from their Black Sage Bench, Mission Hill Road, Silver Ranch, and other estates. Try their 2014 Silver Ranch Vineyard Riesling Icewine from the Terroir Collection today!