Cold snap allows icewine makers to salvage crop

KELOWNA, B.C. — After dire warnings of a potentially disastrous season, icewine producers in B.C.’s Okanagan region are feeling the chill — and loving it.

KELOWNA, B.C. — After dire warnings of a potentially disastrous season, icewine producers in B.C.’s Okanagan region are feeling the chill — and loving it.

Temperatures dropped as low as -12 C early Wednesday morning and, coupled with no snow, conditions were perfect to begin plucking frozen grapes.

Twenty-six wineries planned to produce icewine this winter, with the crop estimated at 875 tons — the most on record, says the B.C. Wine Institute.

In West Kelowna, winery proprietor Steve Dale had as many as 16 headlamp-wearing pickers working between 11 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Wednesday, taking advantage of a cold snap that arrived in the nick of time.

“It was a dismal harvest this year,” he said. “We had just a terrible year, but we got about 550 litres of Pinot Gris and about 90 litres of Chardonnay.”

Dale said there should have been three to four times the volume, but it was a cool summer.

“That hailstorm in August decimated a big chunk of our crop, and then the hanging time until now. The birds got unbelievable amounts, probably 70 per cent.”

The harvest was the first opportunity to get Okanagan icewine grapes out of the field since overnight temperatures dropped to -11 C for a short time in mid-November.

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