One of the rarest treats in Southwest Michigan is our ice wine and it can be found at several locations along the Makers Trail. Some describe this type of wine as liquid gold. Others dessert in a glass. All say it is mmm-marvelous!
What is ice wine? Ice wine is made from grapes that have been partially frozen on the vine. The goal is to maximize the sugar concentration in the grapes (the longer they stay on the vine, the sweeter they are). The juice ranges in sweetness from 32-41 Brix.
Vintners harvest the grapes when the temperature drops to 18-20 degrees F. That's when the water in the grape freezes, but not the sugar. Colder than that, the grapes become too hard to extract the juice. The grapes are handpicked (often in the middle of the night) and cannot thaw before they are pressed. Then only 10-20 percent of the juice from the grapes is fermented - a slow, tricky process that takes three to six months. That's why it's liquid gold!
What wineries offer it? Four Southwest Michigan wineries have ice wines available on the Makers Trail Liquid Gold Tour:
- St. Julian Winery Union Pier Tasting Room
9145 Union Pier Rd., Union Pier; 269-469-3150
Ice Wine-Vidal Blanc: The juice for this sweet white wine registered a 41.1 on the Brix scale. Richly flavorful, you will enjoy its apricot, citrus marmalade and honey tones.
- Lemon Creek Winery
533 E. Lemon Creek Road, Berrien Springs; 269-471-1321
2013 Snow Moon: This wine took a silver medal at the 2017 Michigan State Wine Competition. Like the competition's judges, you'll like the lingering freshness of its nectar-like aroma and pear and honey flavors.
- White Pine Winery
317 State Street, St. Joseph; 269-281-0098
Ice Wine: Winemaker Dr. Dave Miller says tasting this nectar-like wine is an ethereal experience you won't forget. It's a sweet blend of apricot, pineapple and honey notes.
- 12 Corners Vineyards & Winery
1201 N. Benton Center Rd., Benton Harbor; (269) 927-1512
Vidal Ice Wine: This dessert wine is a luscious finish to any meal. It has a bouquet of mandarin oranges with notes of apricot preserves, candied brown sugar and honey.
Because of the rarity of these ice wines, expect to pay more to bring this liquid gold home with you - $25-$40 a bottle. Most of the ice wines come in half-size bottles (375 ml) - although Lemon Creek Winery just started offering its award-winning Snow Moon in a 500 ml bottle. All four are great additions to your personal collection but they also make nice gifts.
What should you pair it with?
Ice wine is delicious by the glass, but you can also delight your dinner guests by serving it with strong cheeses or pâté; pouring it over crème brûlée; or pairing it with cheesecake, pound cake, white chocolate mousse or coconut ice cream.
If you have questions about the wines, ask the staff at each of the four wineries. They are passionate about Southwest Michigan wines.