October 29th, 2019

As of Monday, the 2019 Harvest was coming to a fast close…


All of the fruit was in the building and pressed, fermentations were almost finished, and barrels were being topped. There was no room in the winery for any more fruit— that is until a perfectly timed opportunity presented itself to Melanie and her team. 

“Hailey, have you looked at the weather recently?” asked Melanie to our Assistant Winemaker, Hailey, early Monday morning.
“No, what’s up?”
“It’s going to get down to 10° in Payette.”
“Does this mean Ice Wine?”
“I think so…” 

Ice Wine, a dessert wine that is made from fruit that has been left to freeze on the vine, is a venture that Cinder has never taken on. Why? Timing is everything. Usually by the time the temperatures drop below freezing, a large majority of the fruit in the Snake River Valley has been harvested and crush has already wrapped up for most wineries.

“Mike (Bankhead of Bankhead Vineyards in Payette) called me a few times within the last couple weeks of harvest to see if I wanted any more Riesling since he had a bit left over,” explained Melanie, “I kept on having to let him know that I physically could not fit another ounce of fruit into the winery… but then the freezing temperatures rolled in, and I knew I had to make it work. I called Mike at noon yesterday and asked him if he’d be willing to pick some fruit for me.”

Melanie did initially have plans to create another dessert wine this year made in the style of our 2016 Dried on the Vine Viognier, and had some Riesling still on the vine at Sawtooth. When Melanie noticed the freezing temperatures, she knew what she had to do— it was a decision that needed to be made quickly, “You take a risk with Ice Wine, you can’t ever plan for it.” It was essentially perfect timing; Sawtooth was able to get their crew to pick the frozen Riesling this morning while Melanie was at Bankhead machine harvesting the rest of Mike’s fruit. 

“Nothing wanted to work this morning. It was 9°F, everything was just way too cold. My phone wouldn’t turn on, the battery on the harvester kept shutting down, the belts on the machine were all off— I was nervous and so was Mike. After some tinkering, we got the harvester going. We were planning to start at 6am, but didn’t get going until 8:30.”

There was a bit of work that needed to be done at the winery as well. Like Melanie said, there was no room in the building for any more wine. “If the freezing temperatures had come even one week earlier, I might have turned the fruit down because we literally had no room. It was just perfect timing. We had Jamey (one of our Cellar Techs) topping off barrels all day yesterday and we were able to free up a 250 gallon tank and a few spare barrels for the Ice Wine. We are absolutely filled to the brim with wine.”

As soon as the grapes got back to the winery this morning, we began pressing while they were still frozen. The juice that came out of the press was slow moving and almost syrup-like, sweet (pressing in at 47 brix!), and tasting absolutely amazing.

About 30% of the fruit that we harvested from Bankhead this morning had Botrytis, also known as Noble Rot. Botrytis is a type of mold that penetrates the skin of the grapes, allowing for the moisture to evaporate and the grape to become almost raisin-like. This process raises the sugar concentration of the grape and also adds a honey-like quality to the flavor of the finished wine. In a lot of cases, Botrytis will lead to Sour Rot if the fruit does not freeze in time— this makes the fruit unusable. Luckily, this was not the case for us. Did I mention that the timing of all of this was perfect? 

“I’ve been waiting my whole career to make an Ice Wine,” said Melanie over the phone this morning as she was driving back from Payette with the frozen fruit in tow. “I am so excited!”

Mother Nature took good care of us this year, and for that, we are so grateful. Keep an eye out for Cinder’s first-ever Ice Wine coming out in the Fall of 2020. Cheers!

—Eliza Mularski