I love checking out something new, but revisiting a past favourite is wonderful in its own way, and this year’s Worshipping Icewine event at Sun Peaks Resort’s Winter Festival of Wine was no letdown.
The wine tasting was hosted by Ezra and Ari Cipes, sons of Summerhill Pyramid Winery proprietor Stephen Cipes, and featured five of their winery’s Icewines plus a sparkling wine to warm up and cleanse our palates.
Icewine is a very sweet wine that’s produced by leaving the grapes on the vine until the temperature reaches a minimum of -8 C before harvesting. This process of wine production began in Germany, but B.C.’s appropriate growing season and winters that will freeze the grapes so swiftly, leads Ezra Cipes to argue that “Icewine is done in this region arguably better than anywhere else in the world.”
The five Icewines sampled at the event were each a different varietal, and brought out tastes as divergent as strawberries to smoked meat in their personalities.
The first Icewine we tasted was a 2007 Riesling Icewine, and like many of the others, at only five years old this one was a baby. Icewines can easily last 20, 30, 40 years according to Ezra. This Riesling won the gold medal at the 2011 San Francisco International Wine Festival.
Following the Riesling was another honey-coloured wine, a 2007 Chardonnay Icewine. Although the first two looked similar, the difference in the high acidity of the Riesling beside the low natural acidity of the Chardonnay was clear.
Next up for tasting was a 2011 Merlot. As it’s so young, this wine was a “tank sample,” meaning it isn’t being bottled quite yet. Despite its youth, the Icewine offered a very pleasant taste of honey, strawberries and tree fruit.
Entirely different from the first three Icewines was the 2007 Pinot Noir. This wine had an unusual smoked taste, while maintaining the rich sweetness characteristic of Icewine.
The final sampling, Ezra’s favourite, was another tank sample, a 2010 Zweigelt. Ezra described this one as the most complex in flavour, with mingling fruit, minerals, honey and an almost “baked goods” taste.
It’s fascinating to compare the different tastes of various Icewines back to back, and I think almost more-so when the wines are all from the same winery. It really shows the variety of possibilities that can come from one source.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery is an award winning winery located in Kelowna, B.C. It grows seven different types of grapes in 13 vineyards operated by independent growers. Their fruit is herbicide and pesticide free.
When asked how they decide which grapes will be table wine, and which will become Icewine, Ezra explains there isn’t a fast rule behind their choices.
“Deciding on a grape to process as Icewine is a discussion that happens throughout the season,” he says. Each September they begin deciding and netting the crops, after that it’s up to Mother Nature to cooperate with an appropriate snap of cold weather.