By Bryan Callandrelli, Niagara Correspondent

This year’s Niagara region ice wine harvest is underway, with three local wineries braving temperatures that barely broke single digits (windchills were well below zero) to collect those precious frozen grapes during seemingly perfect harvest conditions. The harvest window this year was a long one, as frigid temperatures have lingered in the region for several days.

Niagara Landing in Cambria, Schulze Vineyards & Winery in Burt and Leonard Oakes Winery in Medina all had crews out last week collecting either Vidal or Catawba grapes. Domenic Carisetti, winemaker/consultant for all three wineries, was busy overseeing the pressing of the fruit.

This season’s addition of the Catawba grape for ice wine is a bit of a surprise if you are used to the usual suspects of Vidal blanc, riesling, gewurtztraminer and cabernet franc, but Catawba still has a following in the region with locals. Many other wineries in the region have plans for ice wine in the future, but most of them are still working with young vines that they do not want to over stress by leaving fruit on any longer than needed.

In Ontario, some wineries owe up to 20% of their revenue to ice wine sales and the Niagara USA region is increasing its investment in the business. With recent acclaim from magazines like Wine Spectator giving scores of up to 94 points for Ontario producers and 90 points for our own Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, it’s obvious that ice wine can be provide a fast track to world wide recognition of Niagara wines. This year’s harvest just reinforces that the region is as close to perfection as a region can be for this decadent dessert wine.