Thirsty Thursday

Golden Vidal Blanc Ice Wine is local and luxurious

Aline Peres Martins | Staff Photographer

Vidal Blanc, a dessert ice wine, has hints of apricot and honey. The sweetness is made palpable by a balancing sour. The wine comes from Standing Stone Vineyards in Hector, New York

It’s rare to find someone complaining about 65-degree weather in February — especially in Syracuse, one of the snowiest cities in the country. But there is one group of people who may have some complaints this winter. Ice wine makers.

Ice wine is a type of dessert wine that originated in Germany and Austria. It is made by harvesting grapes in the dead of winter just after they’ve frozen and extracting the sweet, concentrated frozen juice. Although it has its roots in Europe, the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is also a hot spot for ice wine production. That’s why anytime there is a wine tasting in the area you are almost guaranteed to find an ice wine on the list.

The tricky part about ice wine-making, however, is that the grapes have to freeze. Without sub-freezing temperatures, there is no ice wine. And in order to have a large harvest of frozen grapes for production, it needs to be below freezing for long periods of time — something that doesn’t happen during unusually warm winters like the one we’re having this year.

This winter has been one of the warmest in Upstate New York history. In fact, March 1 broke a record set for warmest day from Poughkeepsie to Rochester. The Rochester record has held since 1954 and has now been shattered. This is not good news for ice wine. Grapes could rot and birds could eat them.

Since it is impossible to forecast what future winter weather will look like, I decided to try one from the Finger Lakes just in case supply is low in the coming years.

I went with a Vidal Blanc ice wine from Standing Stone Vineyards in Hector, New York. The vineyard is only an hour and a half drive away so it is a relatively local wine. Vidal blanc is a French hybrid white grape wine and is now most popular in the Northeastern United States and Canada, typically used for late-harvest sweet wines — like ice wine.

When talking about ice wine, the usual emphasis is on the sweetness, and this Vidal Blanc is a very sweet dessert wine with notes of apricot and honey. But in addition to the sweetness, there is a balancing sour that makes it palatable. It’s gold color makes drinking it feel somewhat luxurious, and the $25-price tag adds to that effect as well. At 11.5 percent alcohol, it is on the high end for ice wines, and is the type of wine where you drink one glass and call it a night.

I would buy this wine again — pair it with some brie or Roquefort and you can have yourself a fancy night while supporting the local Upstate New York economy.

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