In Minnesota, one thing we’re never short on is ice.
For nine months of the year, no matter how we want it — crushed, cubed, in icicle form or even coating our streets and driveways, ice is more than plentiful.
It was only a matter of time until someone got the idea to use it for something positive, something sure to help with those winter blues.
Maureen Maloney and her husband, John, own Cannon River Winery, a local 20-acre vineyard in the heart of historic downtown Cannon Falls. The Maloneys founded the winery six years ago from scratch, with the idea of bringing a little bit of Napa Valley to the Twin Cities.
“We grow a number of cold, hearty grapes that are developed by the University of Minnesota,” Maureen said. “It’s probably one of the largest (vineyards) in the state.”
This winter, they unveiled the official wine of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, just in time for its 125th anniversary. Appropriately so, the wine is called “Winter Ice.” And yes, it actually is made with ice.
John came up with the idea for Winter Ice, thinking, what would be a more fitting way to celebrate 125 years of the Winter Carnival?
“We’re both St. Paul-ites, so the Winter Carnival is near and dear to our hearts,” Maureen said. “We knew this 125-year anniversary was coming up and we were planning on doing an ice-style wine for years and this was the year we decided to do our best and have it come to fruition.”
Maureen contacted the people with the Winter Carnival and, no surprise here, they were completely on board with the idea.
“There’s nothing more fitting than an ice wine for a winter carnival,” Maureen said.
Making Ice Wine
It ain’t called ice wine for nothing. The process to make this delicious concoction is much like what you might imagine.
Maureen said ice wine is made with grapes that are allowed to freeze on the vine. Whether our dropping winter temps allow it to freeze naturally — or it’s given a little extra freezing assistance — once the grapes are good and icy, the process begins.
“When you pick them, the water itself freezes and then what is pressed off is a really sweet juice. It’s really concentrated in sweetness,” Maureen said.
At Cannon River Winery, they use St. Pepin grapes for their ice wine in order to achieve a well-balanced wine that finishes with a refreshing crisp taste.
“It’s got a hint of tropical fruit and it’s more enjoyed as a dessert wine so it’s something you’d serve with maybe a cheesecake or that kind of thing,” she said.
In order to make roughly 1,000 bottles of this tasty treat, the Maloneys brought in a group of volunteers to help pick grapes on the day after Christmas — not typically something you’d think to do in the middle of winter.
“That was a lot of fun,” she said. “We had a great group of people out there doing it and it was a really great experience for everybody.”
The Maloneys will be pouring their chilled creation at the ice bar for this year’s 125th anniversary of the Winter Carnival, Jan. 27 to Feb. 6. You can also buy a bottle to take home at the carnival, at the winery’s website or at a number of retail locations in Minnesota (see website for locations). A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Winter Carnival’s St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation.
And if the process of making ice wine has you intrigued, head over to their vineyard where you can take a tour, learn about how they make all of their local wines and best of all, try them out for yourself. Check the website for hours.
Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.