I recently had the opportunity to pick frozen grapes from the vines at Georgian Hills Vineyards in Blue Mountains, Ontario. Sounds a bit random, doesn’t it? I mean, who goes grape picking? And in the winter? I was originally set to visit the Georgian Hills Vineyards to enjoy a tasting and a snowshoe tour, but because the weather was just right for picking, I was able to join a group of about 30 volunteers to pick frozen grapes. I jumped at the opportunity!
The team of volunteers gathered around 9 am, and while we sipped on coffee and treats, we learned about the process for making Frozen on the Vine. This is Georgian Hills Vineyards’s brand of Icewine (the term “Icewine” is assigned and approved only to VQA-designated viticulture areas). Since the temperature had hovered consistently around -8 to -10 degrees Celcius for several days, the grapes were perfect for picking. Robert Ketchin, one of Georgian Hills Vineyards’s partners, explained that after the grapes were picked, they would be pressed right away to release all the sugar.
volunteers are ready to begin
grapes from Georgian Hills Vineyards’s Frozen on the Vine
Robert led us through the picking process. Each person was given cutters and a basket, and once our basket was full, we emptied it into a larger bin, which would then be carried away and emptied into massive blue bins by the Georgian Hills Vineyards’s staff. We worked side by side, moving along the rows, which resulted in a very social grape picking experience! I enjoyed meeting people from the area;Â many of us were enthusiastic first-timers. Photos were snapped as we moved through the rows, and we were encouraged to try the grapes, too. Frozen grapes are such a sweet snack.
The green nets you see protect the grapes as they grow. We moved them aside, of course, to get at the grapes. We cut the grapes from the main stem and everything got dumped into the baskets. The grape press does not let the stems and leaves pass through, so we didn’t need to worry about being so perfect.
I wore many layers for this outdoor activity. I wore four top layers, wool leggings and snowpants, two pairs of gloves, my long L.L.Bean coat, big blanket scarf, and my trusty Sorel boots with two pairs of socks. I was warm. Better to be warm and happy than cranky from the cold when you’re out picking grapes!
We worked through rows of Vidal and Riesling grapes, and without noticing, the hours flew by. When we took a group break, we warmed up with cider, hot chocolate, and more treats. The Georgian Hills Vineyards’s team were gracious hosts and very appreciative of everyone’s time and energy.
massive blue bins of frozen grapes that are ready for the press
winemaker Vanessa at work
the bladder (the black thing in the middle) pushes the grapes against the wood frame to release the sugary juice
the wood slats will come together as the bladder presses the grapes against them
This year’s sweet Frozen on the Vine will be bottled up and ready next year. I guess that means I need to make a return trip to Georgian Hills Vineyards to grab a bottle two of the sweet winter wine with the grapes that I picked this month.
Besides catching the “picking frozen grapes” day at Georgian Hills Vineyards, the winery is open year-round for visitors. Check out the range of winter experiences (e.g., snowshoe tour) and summer packages. (e.g., helicopter tour). In addition to the sweet winter Frozen on the Vine wine, Georgian Hills Vineyards offers white, red, and rosÃ© wines as well as a variety of ciders.
another Georgian Hills Vineyards sweet dessert wine – Ida Red – made from frozen apples (available at the LCBO)
I have many words of thanks today. Thanks to the Georgian Hills Vineyards team for welcoming me to this grape picking party! Thanks to Allison Davies for taking my photos! Thanks to Amanda P. and Grey County Tourism for arranging my trip.
See more of my trip to Grey County at #WhiteCabanaGoestoGreyCounty.