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For 'ice wine' vintners, frigid temps are reason to rejoice

OVID, N.Y. (AP) — While the vast majority of New Yorkers are hunkering down to ride out frigid temperatures and snow blasts from the latest winter storm, others are seizing on the opportunity to ... pick grapes?

One Finger Lakes-area winemaker jokingly calls it “insanity,” but temperatures between 12 and 18 degrees are the ideal conditions for harvesting grapes for ice wine, a dessert variety grown in the region that is known for its sweetness. Freezing the grapes pushes out the water and concentrates the sugars and acids, resulting in more intense flavors.

“It’s cold, it’s often dark and it has to be done pretty quickly," Dave Breeden, winemaker at Sheldrake Point Winery on Cayuga Lake, told “Everyone pitches in, not just the vineyard people who are always out here, but tasting room staff, office people, the owners. We even have people who no longer work for us who come back and help out.”

December’s warmer than average temperatures pushed back the harvesting, but a cold spell this month has had the pickers out in numbers. About a dozen upstate wineries pick the frozen grapes, while others harvest grapes during warmer months then freeze them.

Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairport, near Rochester, is hosting a state ice wine festival next month.

The Associated Press