Grape cultivation is Chautauqua County’s claim to fame, and a major pillar of western New York’s economy.
The Concord Grape Belt, also known as Lake Erie Wine Country, supports over 1900 jobs and contributes over $340 million to the regional economy.
Chautauqua celebrates its grape culture in myriad ways throughout the year – in winter, Lake Erie Wine Country hosts “Frozen,” a festival of ice and regional specialty wines, including ice wine. The festival is held at the Grape Discovery Center.
Ice wine is a dessert wine known for its intense flavor. It complements similarly strong-flavored foods, or you can drink it alone as its own dessert! Experts suggest chilling your ice wine before consumption for the best flavor experience.
There are very few places in the United States that can produce true ice wine. Certain environmental, varietal, and harvesting conditions must be met before a wine can legally be sold as an “ice wine.”
The grapes MUST be frozen while still on the vines, and pressed while still frozen – that’s the secret to the wine’s intense sweetness. Grapes frozen after harvest will not meet the criteria for ice wine.
Ice wines are more expensive due to the smaller volume of liquid the frozen grapes produce, but also because it’s difficult to predict each year’s harvest. If the grapes don’t freeze, there’s no ice wine; if the grapes stay on the vine too long, there won’t be enough viable grapes to harvest.
Wineries must find the perfect balance of temperature and time each year, or they risk losing that year’s stock. The small window to produce the wine plus the variability in stock means a small bottle sells for about $40, on average.
During the Frozen festival, however, visitors get ten “free” samples of ice wines made from regional grapes. Tickets are $35 ahead of time ($40 at the door) and festival goers also receive a commemorative ice wine glass, coupons for the wineries, and access to live entertainment, hot food, sleigh rides, and an ice carving demonstration.
If you want to sample a taste of Chautauqua County at its finest, the ice wine festival is the place to be. The festival runs from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm on January 16 at the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, NY.
We hope to see you there!