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Uniquely Wisconsin: Harvesting Ice Wine Grapes

By: Dana Brueck Email
By: Dana Brueck Email

Posted Monday, December 8, 2008 --- 2:30 p.m.

Monday morning's harvesting of grapes at a local vineyard began before sunrise. Wollersheim Winery's winemaker woke up early to check the grapes for a vintage with a distinct Wisconsin flavor.

"I can't describe it," Jim Remus says, "You're outdoors. It's quiet. You just got a little conversation."

Jim Remus loves to talk about what it takes to make wine.

"I make a lot of country wines."

But today, he's among two dozen others helping to harvest grapes for Wollersheim Winery.

"Without any leaves around here, it's very easy picking."

... with the grapes nearly frozen ...

"If you ever taste something like this, it's like eating a piece of hard candy," he says.

Wollersheim's winemaker Philippe Coquard carefully selects the day every year to pick the hardy grapes. They'll be used to make ice wine.

"We needed 3, 4, 5 days in the teens to freeze the water inside of the berries."

It will take some time before these grapes become ice wine. Their juice will ferment for more than 2-months with the wine ready for release in October.

"The water stays behind. The water stays in ice and only the very sweet juice comes out and that's how you get ice wine."

He says the grapes create a juice as sweet as maple syrup. Paul Opichka says it's a flavor to experience.

"Oh, the ice wine! Oh, that's a sipping wine," Opichka says.

"You could talk about champagne, Bordeaux and Cabernet and Merlot... Those wines are always good but ice wine is so special, so different ... and so unique, it just doesn't get any better," Coquard says.

Wollersheim's winemaker says it's a flavor uniquely Wisconsin.

"With pride, I always say California can't do it," Coquard says.

If you're interested, mark your calendars! This year's ice wine is set for release October 14th of 2009. Because it is such a sweet wine, ice wine comes in half bottles, which typically run around 50-dollars.


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