ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As daylight shortens and warmth fades this time of year, local vineyards and wineries are forced to adapt with the changing seasons. Casa Larga, a vineyard in Fairport is well known for growing grapes specifically for ice wine, a popular wine the vineyard has been making for over 30 years.

To produce it, a very specific set of weather conditions must be in place to grow and harvest the grapes. I spoke to the President and family member of Casa Larga Vineyards Anderea Colaruotolo O’Neill about the current situation.

“…and what we’re waiting for is a freeze, cause inside a grape is sugar and water, so as soon as that grape freezes it has to be 17 and below for at least a minimum of 24 hours. We pick those grapes frozen, we press them frozen and what comes out is this very beautiful, sweet juice…”

When taking a look at the conditions needed for ice wine grape harvesting, the conditions needed is something we haven’t even seen yet as the lowest temperature recorded at the Rochester airport is 24 degrees. It’s still below freezing, but not quite the prefect threshold. 

Temperature this month for December have been running well above average (~4.0 degrees) so far, and it’s vineyards like this one that have to roll with the punches when the temperatures fluctuate from freezing, to above freezing.

Andrea says the fermentation process of ice wine takes longer because of the higher sugar content, and that the biggest impact is that the grapes are still out there waiting to be harvested, which affects the quantity they can provide. The longer they sit, the smaller the berries get, which also adds stress to the plants.

“…you know how the weather goes you just have to react to it, and you know work with what you have. You know, always have a plan but again you’re ready to change, and that’s what’s interesting about making wine is that each year is different, because the weather changes is it too wet is it too dry…”

There is a plus side to the warmer weather – that being the vineyard uses it to their advantage allowing opportunities to revitalize parts of the vineyard, get any necessary maintenance done, and replant where they’ve lost plans over the years. 

The NY Ice Wine & Culinary Festival is returning to Casa Larga Vineyards this upcoming February. You can learn more about the event on their website:

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory