A tradition in the Grand River Valley wine producing region returns to Ashtabula County wineries March 10 and 17.
The 14th Annual Ice Wine Festival celebrates the county’s microclimate, which has the wide temperature swings necessary to produce authentic ice wine—the fermented juice of grapes harvested and pressed in a frozen state.
Wineries on both sides of the Lake-Ashtabula counties line produce ice wine and are part of the festival. They are:
Grand River Cellars, 5750 S. Madison Road (that’s Route 528), Madison;
Ferrante Winery & Ristorante, 5585 State Route 307, Harpersfield;
Chalet DeBonne Vineyards, 7840 Doty Road, Madison;
Laurello Vineyards, 4573 State Route 307, Geneva;
St. Joseph Vineyard, 7800 Warner Road (that’s Route 307, 2 miles east of Route 528), Madison
Remaining festival dates are March 10 and 17, 2018, and hours are noon to 5 p.m. Begin the tasting tour at any of the five participating wineries; each winery charges $6 for 2 ounces of an ice wine, but you can shave a buck off that price by bringing a donation of a canned food item with you. Donated items go to local food banks.
Your $5 bill and canned corn or beans will also get you an ice wine glass and complementary appetizer. And each winery will offer entertainment or an educational event throughout the festival. A winery-by-winery list of menu and events is online. One the most challenging is the four-mile run between Chalet Debonne and Grand River Cellars on the afternoon of March 4.
A pre-festival Winter Glow Progressive Dinner will be held every Friday evening prior to a festival day. Call 440-298-9838 for a menu and reservations.
Sweet and intensely flavorful, ice wine is produced under frigid conditions: The temperature must drop to 17 degrees or less and stay there for six hours in order for the berries to freeze. The harvest is often done at night to take advantage of the coldest temperatures. The berries are pressed in their frozen state.
Only a few regions in the world have the right mix of a long growing season for the wine grapes and the cold temperature needed for ice wine production. While ice wine is a small percentage of the total output of Northeast Ohio’s wineries, the niche product helps the wineries and region gain recognition and puts it the company of the Niagara wine producing region and Germany’s ice wine region.
Local wine producers began experimenting with ice wine more than two decades ago, and they continue to hone their craft with different varieties of grapes and flavors. For example, Laurello offers a habanero flavored ice wine, and Ferrante’s created an ice wine Bellini.