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Prime Time for Icewine

It’s c-c-cold this week in the Okanagan, which is g-g-good for icewine.

Employees of wineries up and down the Valley bundled up and jumped into action as the mercury dipped below -8 C.

Icewine can only be made from grapes that are still frozen on the vine, which causes the water within to freeze, concentrating the juice and resulting in honey-sweet dessert wine.

Vineyard manager Rickard Branby, at Sperling Vineyards in East Kelowna, says pickers hit the vines early Wednesday and Thursday morning.

“We started Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. and today at 5:30 a.m.,” said Branby.

This year’s harvest saw perfect temperatures last until sunrise, so pickers got the opportunity to pick in daylight instead of the dead of night.

“It was perfect weather. The ideal temperature, of course, but also clear blue skies – and to be able to do it daylight is a treat.”

Branby said it’s crucial to pick the grapes while they can, as another cold snap can’t always be counted on.

“When you look at the weather, it can be unpredictable. It will look like it is going to be cold for a long time and then it warms again. And then you may have to wait a long time before you can get the pick done,” said Branby. “So, it is nice to get it all done. Finally the harvest is done!”

A team of nine people picked about 2 1/2 metric tonnes of icewine and last-harvest grapes during the last two days.

“It is a small team, but you don’t need a lot of people,” said Branby. “But, it is a lot of work. It is cold, and the preparation is a ton of work, too. Everything has to be netted in advance, or the birds will get it all.”

The earliest pick on record was in 2013, on Nov. 20 and 21.

This cold weather is expected to continue through the weekend and into next week.

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