Temperature drop sparks flurry of activity for Icewine harvest

It was cold –make that extremely cold – on the morning of Jan. 22, but the conditions were just right for the Icewine harvest at the NC Teaching Winery.

For weeks, staff at the Teaching Winery and students from the College’s wine programs had been waiting for the temperatures to drop past minus 8 degrees so that the conditions would give them the green light. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, they finally got their wish.

By 6 a.m there was already a flurry of excitement at the Niagara College Teaching Winery as students, staff and other volunteers prepared to embark on what has become an annual rite of passage at the Teaching Winery.

The event kicked off with an orientation session led by professor Thomas Schultz, head winemaker Terence Van Rooyen and assistant winemaker Gavin Robertson that prepared the group of about 30 students for the task at hand.

Before daylight broke, the group – armed with clippers and an iron will to weather the frigid temperatures –set out to the vineyards near Taylor Rd. to begin what many had been looking forward to for weeks.

First-year Winery and Viticulture Technician student Alexa Alfano was one of them.

“With the warmer temperatures over the last few weeks, I was worried that we wouldn’t get to do this,” she said. “I really wanted to have this experience. I’m really excited about it.”

Second-year Wine Business Management students Alexa MacAlister and Kylie Toner said the harvest gave them a deeper appreciation for the product.

“For us, being on the business management side of it, we’re not so exposed to production or in the vineyards so much, so it’s nice to be a part of it,” said MacAlister.

“It makes you feel like you’re becoming part of the wine industry in Ontario when you get a chance to do this,” said Toner. “A lot of people romanticize Icewine picking but it’s actually pretty harsh. The weather conditions are really cold, but if you dress appropriately it’s not that bad.”

Schultz he enjoys the event every year.

“I like the overall experience of the students all coming together to do this. It’s fun,” he said. “There are not a lot of places in the world to get this experience.”

The event drew not only students but other interested volunteers as well.

Peter Aylan-Parker, who works as an event coordinator for Lieutenant Governor David Onley, drove to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus from his home in Toronto just to participate.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s office always has a close relationship with Niagara College. We’ve implemented the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines down here,” said Aylan-Parker.  “I thought this was a good Canadian thing to do, to try and help out with some of the award-winning Icewine here, and it’s pretty special.”

The harvest will produce both a red and a white Icewine. While they aren’t expected to hit the shelves until 2015, Van Rooyen has high hopes for the 2013 product.

“Based on this cold weather, we expect our Icewine from this year to be very good,” he said.

Scenes from the 2013 Icewine harvest


Thomas Schultz prepares the group at an Orientation session at 6 a.m.

Terence Van Rooyen prepares the team.

It was still dark out when students began picking.

To pick icewine, the temperature has to be at least minus 8 degrees.

Terence Van Rooyen is interviewed live on the air by CHCH reporter Phil Perkins. CHCH featured three live broadcasts from the NC Teaching winery that morning. Jon Ogryzlo and Gavin Robertson were interviewed on following segments.




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