Midwestern Ice Wine Goes To The White House

May 18, 2010 at 10:27 am

If there’s one thing that Midwestern winegrowers have over the oft-preferred warm climate areas is the possibility of ice wine.

Ice wine is a natural for upper Midwest winegrowing because it can only be made with grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Although the water in the grapes freezes, the sugars do not; and as the frozen grapes are pressed, the resulting juice is sweet and concentrated. Ice wine is distinct from many other dessert wines, like Sauternes, because it is relatively unaffected by “noble rot,” a condition that is welcome (despite its name) because it causes grapes to dry out and become raisiny, and thus have more concentrated sweetness. Because ice wine does not achieve its concentrated sweetness through Botrytis (or, noble rot), but through freezing, many believe that the wine has a cleaner flavor, and a sweetness that is balanced by refreshing acidity. Ice wine is a good option for those who are turned off by the cloying nature of most dessert wines.

The vineyards at Fenn Valley, located in the Fennville AVA in West Michigan about 5 miles from Lake Michigan, are northern enough to be subject to early season, cold temperatures or snow that make ice wine possible. Fenn Valley’s “42” ice wine (named after the 42nd parallel where the winery is located) has long been a secret among Michigan wine drinkers.

The secret is out, though, as Fenn Valley unexpectedly received a call from The White House, which expressed interest in serving their 42 ice wine at a White House dinner. It was served at the Governors’ Ball on February 21, 2010 along with Baked Alaska. (I think the White House was aiming for a fire and ice theme here.) Here are some pictures relating to the event from Fenn Valley’s website. Virginia and Sonoma County wines were also served at this event. (If you’re really interested in this dinner, here is a link to the full menu, and more information about the entertainment, the celebrity attendees, and a glimpse of Michelle Obama’s dress.)

If you’re traveling through Michigan (as many of you soon will be as the summer vacation season begins), you can purchase the 2008 42 Ice Wine at Fenn Valley’s winery or at many grocery stores in Michigan. It is made from 100% Vidal Blanc grapes and exhibits a stone-fruit forwardness, with mango and peach flavors. It would be a natural pairing with summer fruit desserts, especially grilled peaches with mascarpone. It is a bargain at $15/bottle. (Wine geek facts: Harvest sugar is 37.8 brix; finished sugar is 18.9%. Alcohol is 10.5% by volume.)

Fenn Valley is having its annual wine festival on June 26, 2010. If you’re interested in attending, there is more information here.