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Ice Wine Harvest at Casa Larga Vineyards

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Rochester: Ice Wine Harvest at Casa Larga Vineyards
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Frigid temperatures are peak conditions for harvesting grapes for ice wine.

Crews at Casa Larga in Fairport spent the early morning hours Thursday in the vineyard picking frozen grapes.

"We are at about 12 degrees. There is a weather station just over the hill and so these grapes are frozen solid that is the main goal," said Steve Richard, Casa Larga general manager.

Ice wine, that many call liquid gold, is a very sweet, full-bodied dessert wine.

Producing ice wine is labor intensive. The crew has to battle the brutal cold to hand pick grapes that are frozen solid right on the vine.

"If the temperature creeps up before we done with the job, we have to stop doing what we are doing and come back on another day when the temperature drops that low," said winemaker Matt Cassavaugh.

Casa Larga reserved five rows of grapes for ice wine. It's a gamble because they never know if the weather will cooperate.

"Since the last couple years was really difficult, we didn't leave a lot this year which in hindsight we could have had a bountiful harvest," said Richard.

Frozen grapes make a more concentrated juice packed with sugar.

Grapes are pressed immediately in a hydraulic press to extract the syrupy juice.

Then, it ferments for two to three months.

The slow process produces a concentrated nectar and the alcohol from the sugars in the natural grape juice.

"It gives it a really, really great luscious mouth feel kind of a somewhat syrupy consistency and along with the sugars all the aromas with the grapes are really, really intensified as well," said Cassavaugh.

This years harvest will make around 100 cases of ice wine.

Casa Larga will celebrate ice wine in February with the 6th Annual New York Ice Wine and Culinary Festival. It's Saturday February 15.

Tickets are on sale at Wegmans.

It's delicious wine that is unique to this area thanks to the cold and this wine growing region and talented winemakers.

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