Ice wine is a specialty dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen naturally on the vine. Very few locations can make true ice wine, and the Traverse City area is lucky to be one such spot.
To learn even more about this “liquid gold”, we tapped Marie Chantal Dalese, Certified Sommelier and owner of Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn on the Old Mission Peninsula. Chateau Chantal aims to produce ice wine each year, and they do it well; in fact, in 2016, their ice wine was chosen to be served in the White House! Dalese shared that to produce ice wine, vintners start by reserving vineyard blocks in October, when the rest of the grapes would generally be harvested. If it’s been a good, quality growing season, they wait for the first deep freeze, when it is roughly between 15-18 degrees for 24-48 hours. At this point, the grapes (sometimes called berries) have lost lots of their water weight, so what remains is concentrated juice and lots of flavor. These berries are then put into the press, slowly pressed as they warm, and the result is a beautiful dessert wine, very high in natural sugars.
“[Ice wine] is very unique and very special…it can only be made when the conditions are exactly right,” the sommelier explained. Wine lovers can expect a consistent product, as there’s not a tremendous amount of vintage variation, though its flavors can be very complex and layered. Dalese said Chateau Chantal makes ice wine from Cabernet Franc and Riesling. The Cab Franc ice wine hypes up the berry and rich red wine characteristics expected from that grape, while the Riesling shines with peachy, toasted caramel notes. Besides Chateau Chantal, additional area vineyards have produced ice wine, including Black Star Farms, Brys Estate, Chateau Grand Traverse, 45 North, and Bel Lago, among others.
To learn more about the Traverse Wine Coast and how to plan your winter winery visit, go to traversewinecoast.com.