Last month I attended a tasting put on by my buddies at the Packing House Wine Merchants in Claremont that I knew right away I was going to have to write about. The tasting featured an ice wine flight, each one from the same producer but made with three different varietals. This was an awesome chance to talk about one of my favorite styles of dessert wines, and to cover three very unique bottlings from an excellent producer.
Founded in 1975, Inniskillin winery was formed specifically to create exceptional Canadian wines unlike any other. Over the years, in addition to a massively diverse selection of dry table wines, the Inniskillin name has become synonymous with icewine. The winery produces icewines from throughout Canada, sourcing their fruit from both the Niagara Peninsula in the east and the Okanagan Valley in the west.
Icewine, also called eiswein in its native German, is an amazingly sweet dessert wine made from late harvest grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vines. This process usually involves workers going out into the vineyards late in the night, after temperatures have dropped below eight degrees Celsius for at least a continuous three hours, and harvesting the frozen grapes. They are pressed immediately, but because they are frozen the majority of their water content remains solid as ice, resulting in the crush yielding only super concentrated, dense and delicious syrup. Because only the essence of the grape’s juice has been harvested, these wines capture and condense all the grape’s flavors. Icewines are amazingly complex, honey-sweet, and yet balanced by a sharp powerful acidity. Icewine is truly an experience not to be missed, and Inniskillin handles the class masterfully.
Wine #1: Inniskillin 2006 Niagara Peninsula Vidal Icewine
If you read any of my articles on wine from Illinois, you are probably already familiar with hybrid varietals. Just like Chardonel, Vignoles, and Frontenac, Vidal is also a cross between native American grape varieties and European Vitis Vinifera vines. Designed to be more hearty and tolerant of very cold winters, Vidal took its endurance from its American parentage and its finesse from its European relatives. Loved by many for its ability to keep its searing acidity fresh under almost any conditions, this is an ideal grape to be used for icewine.
Cool, honeyed pear and cut apples show at first on the nose. A tropical fruit and floral component also runs through strongly, combining notes of fuchsia and mango. The aroma is very clean, but a spin in the glass reveals a subtle spiciness and a faint, but definitely very crisp minerality.
The palate is instantly sweet and delicate. This wine’s flavors are beautifully transparent and light, with honeyed peach and pear showing at first, moving into pineapple, mango, and papaya. The fruitiness of this wine is amazingly impressive, and its rich, silky smooth mouthfeel makes it even more elegant. This is a very refined effort, with incredible concentration of flavors but still a lightness of body. Truly delicious.
Worth Buying. 92 points.
Wine #2: Inniskillin 2006 Niagara Peninsula Riesling Icewine
Of the three varietals that we are covering today, Riesling requires the least introduction. The traditional and preferred eiswein varietal in Germany, where the technique began, Riesling’s high acidity, complex flavor profile, and ageability all make it an excellent candidate for icewine.
The aroma is dense and deep, with a distinctly stony quality to it. There is something almost buttery about it, with faint notes of creamy hazelnut liqueur playing off fresh apricot, pear, and orange tones.
It’s fresh and dense at the same times, with a thick, palate coating quality. There is something almost savory about this wine, a clear spiciness, and a dense stony quality about it. Peach and petrol, apricot and mango, pear and orange marmalade intertwine in a continually evolving flavor profile. This wine has excellent refinement and incredible depth.
Worth Trying. 93 points.
Wine #3: Inniskillin 2006 Niagara Peninsula Cabernet Franc Icewine
Yes, our final wine is a Cabernet Franc, and yes, it is also red. Although not nearly as common as Riesling or Vidal, in New World or Old World icewine, Cabernet Franc does occasionally show up to create a sweet wine really unlike any other. Like white icewine, red icewine also captures the essence of the grape that it is made from, so one made from Cabernet Franc is very much what you might expect. The grape’s high acidity levels allow it to stay fresh, yielding crisp red fruit flavors and firm structure on the palate. For this reason, red icewine is nearly always made with Cabernet Franc, although some exceptions do exist, Inniskillin’s Okanagan Valley Tempranillo Icewine being one of them.
This wine is dominated by berries and coffee beans on the nose. Amaretto and a faintly gamey quality show at the core, with thick wild honey, and a spicy, faintly green streak running throughout. A spin in the glass shows another layer entirely, with watermelon and honeydew.
It manages to be both crisp and somewhat buttery on the palate. There is a distinctive berry component, a dense, deep sweetness, and a combination of melon and strawberry preserves. In addition to the bit of spice that I usually pick up on in icewines, this has a curious foresty quality that is something entirely new, like wild berries and a bit of wet tree bark. This wine’s got a nice acidity, a complex flavor profile, and a lingering, fruit nectar finish. Very well done.
Worth Trying. 93 points.
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The Grapevine: What’s your experience with icewine? What do you think of it?