The Canadians take ice wine very seriously, going so far as to have a trademark on ‘Icewine’ with a capital ‘i.’ Inniskillin has been perfecting Canada’s particular style since their first release in 1984, made by Karl Kaiser, an Austrian winemaker who’d founded the winery with Donald Ziraldo a decade earlier. That first version was made from vidal, a winter-hardy French hybrid whose thick skins allow it to hang on the vine well into the winter months (at least, when the birds don’t eat the sweet grapes first). Today, Inniskillin makes Icewine from a wide range of varieties—even cabernet franc—but vidal remains the most luscious of the bunch.
Contrary to German practice, in which the grapes are typically harvested during the first hard freeze, winemaker Nick Gizuk likes to let the grapes go through several freeze-and-thaw cycles before picking to develop more intensity and complexity of flavor. And when he does pick, he waits until it’s at least -10˚C/14˚F (several degrees colder than German and Ontarian regulation minimums) and harvests at night, when temperatures are more stable. Frozen nearly solid, the hard little berries give up only a tenth of what they would normally. The very sweetest grapes go into the Gold Vidal, which also spends a few months mellowing in French oak barrels before bottling. The result in the 2019 is gorgeous from the first floral, herbal, sweet-fruit whiff, and only gets more so when the satin-textured liquid hits the tongue. It delivers everything the scent promises and more, a cornucopia of bright, zingy citrus and softer, rounder stone-fruit flavors. At 272 g/l of residual sugar, it feels rich and creamy, yet the acidity keeps it all lifted, the flavors crystal clear and lasting for minutes. The bottle may be small, but a little goes a very long way.
Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA
Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.
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