Published by: Wines in Niagara
Rick VanSickle ‏

January 3rd, 2014

Pillitteri Estates Winery completed their largest ever harvest of icewine grapes during a wild New Year’s winter storm. A record icewine harvest for Pillitteri, which began in early December kicked in to high gear on New Year’s Day. At 5 a.m. as the temperature reached -10C and the snow moved in to blanket the estate vineyards the Pillitteri team mobilized for a marathon finish.

It was the largest icewine harvest ever for Pillitteri and included the harvesting of rare icewine grapes including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Shiraz and Riesling. The bulk of the icewine harvest came from the popular Vidal grape with over 200 tonnes harvested. The final stretch of the harvest primarily took place throughout the early morning of New Years Day and continued into the night with extreme challenges.

“With the amount of blowing and drifting snow and the depth of snow it was difficult to even get into the vineyards. The visibility was very poor and with the whiteouts, it was difficult to see the equipment and even the vines. Our tractors were slipping in the snow and we were constantly fighting the elements,” explained Jamie Slingerland (see top photo), Pillitteri’s Director of Viticulture.

This was a lengthy harvest, and one of the earliest completed for the winery, which finished the entire harvest by Jan. 2. It took many hours of dedicated work to complete, resulting in a total tonnage of 750 tonnes. This year’s timely cold spells offered an excellent quality of juice, which will ultimately take up to two weeks to press and re-press for icewine and late harvest wines.

Much of the icewine produced is destined for China through a number of partnerships, which Pillitteri has recently established. Many of the rarer icewines harvested will be sold exclusively at the winery’s retail store. Icewines such as Sangiovese, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are only available at the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery and will be front and centre in this month’s upcoming Icewine Festival.

Pillitteri Estates Winery is a family owned and operated business founded in 1993 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It currently exports to 32 countries and is the largest estate producer of Icewine in the world. Pillitteri is the only certified Advantage HACCP Plus winery in Canada and has also received recognition for bringing the first certified “Verona” vines to Canada and for its work in appassimento wines.