Applied learning on ice

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Photos taken Jan. 18, 2016 at the Niagara College Teaching Winery and vineyards.

Watch video of Icewine pressing here.

On January 18, on the darkness of a cold winter morning, more than 60 students gathered at the Teaching Winery to participate in what has become annual ritual at the College, yet one so few other students in the world ever have an opportunity to experience: the Icewine Harvest.

Bundled up in layers to brave the sub-zero temperatures – dipping just below the minus-eight degree minimum needed for Icewine – the students set out from the warmth of the winery into the College’s teaching vineyards to hand-pick frozen grapes that will soon be transformed into one of the region’s finest treasures.

For many, like first-year Winery and Viticulture Technician student Amelia Kateing-Isaksen, participating in the event was well worth her 5 a.m. wake-up time. In fact, bracing for the cold temperatures was a reason to cheer. “There’s been a lot of anticipation around it since last week, when it wasn’t quite cold enough, so we were excited when we got the go-ahead,” she said. “It’s really cold out there today, but there’s a lot of camaraderie among students.”

The Nova Scotia native who has already worked in a couple of wineries said she values having one Icewine harvest under her belt. “It’s great to get an experience like this in the vineyard.”

The first time was easier than expected for Tim Lozinski, who is also in his first year of the Winery Viticulture Technician program.

“I expected to be outside picking for about three hours but so many people came out today that we were finished in just over an hour. Plus, the grapes fell off so easily,” he said. “I don’t mind the cold. I’m from Saskatchewan and I’m used to cold weather.”

Emma Smalley, second-year student in the Winery Viticulture Technician program, knew exactly what to expect – cold and all. “I wouldn’t miss it,” she said. “It’s a great way to start the semester.”

Students from the college’s Wine Business Management program, as well faculty, staff and other volunteers, also joined in.

CFWI dean Craig Youdale noted that while there was lower yield this year due to the general harvest producing fewer grapes, he expected better quality. “At minus 10-11 degrees, it’s the perfect harvest temperature,” he said.

The Icewine will be bottled during the next month and he expects it to hit the shelves during the spring and summer months.

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