With deep freeze, time to harvest grapes for ice wine

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 January 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers
LYNDONVILLE – It was perfect weather for Leonard Oakes Estate Winery this morning. Temperatures were in the single digits. The wind was sweeping across the orchard.

Nate Hodgins (top) was one of the 14 people out in the cold for about four hours this morning to harvest the frozen Vidal grapes.

Jerod Thurber, events coordinator for Leonard Oakes, was out harvesting grapes this morning.

Ice wine is a popular dessert wine. The frozen fruit will be pressed several times and a drop from those grapes has a high concentration of acid, giving it double the sweetness of regular wine.

“It’s hyper-sweetened in a beautiful drop of juice,” Thurber said.

The winery puts nets around the vines to protect the fruit from birds and animals. The nets also help on harvest day. The crew knocks the grapes loose, and they opens the bottom of the nets, filling lugs with about 25 pounds of the fruit.

Not too many regions work for producing ice wine. It can’t get too cold where the vines won’t survive, and it needs to get to at least 18 degrees for four hours.

Leonard Oakes has already won state and national awards for its ice wine.

Nick Venditti, a New York City native, helped Leonard Oakes with the harvest this morning. Venditti used to be a wine salesman in the Big Apple, and he sold Leonard Oakes wine in the city.

He now works for Leonard Oakes. Venditti, 27, helped with the last frozen grape harvest two years ago. He has learned to buddle up with thick gloves and a sky mask.

Jonathan Oakes, the winemaker at Leonard Oakes, is interviewed in the vineyard by Channel 2 in Buffalo.

Chris Oakes, the orchard manager, drives a tractor with a load of frozen Vidal grapes.