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Hot for Ice Wine

Rich, round, silky and creamy.

That's how wine enthusiasts describe an increasingly popular, decadent dessert wine made from frozen grapes. Fortunately, ice wine -- also dubbed "nectar of the gods" -- will be plentiful this summer, due to frigid temperatures across the nation over the last few years.

"More restaurants across the country are beginning to offer it due to the popularity in the summer and the fruity, chilled taste ice wine offers," says Harold Johnson, general manager of Las Vegas' Mt. Charleston Hotel.

Ice wine is very intense and sweet, with flavors of apricot, lychee, mango and nectarine, note connoisseurs.

But this sweetness is perfectly balanced by bracing acidity, which keeps the wine from being cloying.

Why is it so sweet? Ice wine is made from grapes -- usually Vidal Blanc or Riesling, but sometimes Cabernet Franc or Chamborcin -- left to dry on the vine for two or three months after the harvest. After temperatures drop below freezing for three consecutive days, the grapes are picked and crushed while still frozen. The sweetness hails from from the juices concentrated in the shriveling grapes.

"Many people like it because it's sweet," says Tyler Wesslund, wine director at Atlanta's Canoe Restaurant. "It is becoming more popular in U.S. restaurants as a nice alternative to port or sherry."

Crossing the Frozen Pond

Ice wine has been around for decades, but was rarely produced outside Germany until the Canadian government encouraged its winemakers to give it a try in the late 1980s.

Canadian ice wines soon began to pull in prestigious international awards, and by the late 1990s, most of the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario was devoted to ice-wine production.

Over the last few years, the U.S. has also caught on to ice wine.

Bitter winters in Washington, Ohio, Michigan, and New York have been ideal for the many wineries in this country that have been picking, pressing, and fermenting this year's yield of ice wine.

Now more than a dozen wineries in Ohio alone produce it. Ohio's climate is well suited to ice-wine production, due to the long autumns followed by freezing temperatures in late November and early December.

Click here for information on
the Niagara Wine Festival,
Sept. 22 to Oct. 1, 2006
and the Niagara Icewine Festival,
Jan. 19 to 28, 2007.

Ice wine is also increasingly putting New York's Finger Lakes region on the wine map: In the last three years, sales of ice wine made in that area, as well as on Long Island (which more recently jumped into the ice-wine-making fray) have more than doubled, according to Susan Wine, owner of Vintage New York.

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