The Schuyler County winery that has been around since 1852 is continuing a winter ritual this week, thanks to just the right weather conditions. Hazlitt Vineyard workers were out picking frozen grapes to make ice wine, which can only be made in cold climates like Canada, Germany and right here in Upstate New York. YNN's Katie Husband takes us to the vineyard where workers were out during the wee hours of the morning to start the tedious process of making such a unique wine.
HECTOR, N.Y. -- "Collecting any fruit that was lying in the bottom of the netting. And then the six additional workers duck underneath the netting and just pull the grapes off," said John Santos, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, vineyard manager.
The small group of pickers is responsible for one acre or just over 690 vines of the vidal blanc grapes at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. And it's an intense process that can be done only when the time is just right and with nights that hover around 15 degrees.
"The longer you wait the more the deer and the racoons and the birds get after the fruit and the less you end up harvesting and you're also taking a chance that it may never get that cold again so, and that's exactly what happened last year. If we didn't do it when we did it last year, we wouldn't have made ice wine," said Santos.
Only one ton of grapes was picked this year which is lower than last year's three-and-one-third ton production which will produce a very low yield. As soon as the grapes are loaded up they are immediately taken to the winery for the next process.
"Like an eight hour process of pressing it. It's a really slow pressing, like a lot of our other ones will only be an hour or two hours of pressing and this one is a significant amount more," said Lauren Fiala, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, assistant wine maker.
Fiala explains why the cold conditions are so crucial.
"You're diluting, all the water is kind of trapped in there and it's like this giant ice cube inside of the press so all that stuff that's coming out is the sugars and the flavors so, that's what makes it so concentrated and almost syrupy in the end so, that's what makes it special," said Fiala.
The juice is actually going to sit in a tank for the next couple of days. Then, it might be moved to another tank for the fermentation process. But wine lovers out there, you won't be able to try this wine until next year.
"We're hoping probably bottle it right before next harvest we're hoping. So, September-ish maybe that's ideally what we like to do and then it will be out around this time," said Fiala.
Wine makers say it takes a while for the wine to 'find itself' and develop when it's in the bottle.
Because of the low production of the ice wine, it's only sold at Hazlitt and very limited liquor stores.