Michigan winters are not for the faint of heart.

I will say however, Michigan winter is a lot more tolerable when you've got tasty libations to keep you warm all winter! I'm certainly no stranger to Michigan's expansive craft beer industry, but how is it that I've never heard of "ice wine" until now?

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Not only that, I didn't even know Michigan was a top producer of ice wine. Am I the only one who missed the memo? If you've never heard of this decadent winter dessert wine here's what you need to know:

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What Exactly is 'Ice Wine'?

I think the concept is quite easy to grasp as 'ice wine' is literally just that: wine made from frozen grapes!

In order to make ice wine conditions must be just right-- not too warm, not too cold. According to the Pure Michigan website,

Harvesting grapes for ice wine must be done when the temperature drops to about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugar does not.

However, once the grapes are frozen solid they become unusable. Conversely, if the frozen grapes thaw out they don't yield the super-concentrated elixir needed to make ice wine. Producing this special type of wine means conditions need to be just right.

How Is It Made?

Similar to how classic wine is made it all starts with planting the right grape variety. Common grape varieties used for ice wine include Riesling, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc.

The grapes are then left on the vine to freeze-- on purpose! The longer they stay on the vine the more sugar is produced but that also allows for more opportunity to lose the grapes to due to external factors like critters or weather. It's a delicate process.

Why Michigan?

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that our frigid winters means Michigan is "ripe" for producing ice wine; something not all states are able to do.

In fact, vineyards from more temperate climates try to harvest their grapes and then freeze them-- that is not true ice wine! Both Southwest Michigan and the Traverse City area are known for their award-winning wineries.

In our neck of the woods, you'll find ice wine at places like Warner Vineyards in Paw Paw or White Pine Winery in St. Joseph. Further north wineries like Chateau Chantal and Black Star Farms produce an award-winning ice wine. Cheers!

Tour Warner Vineyards' New Train Car Airbnb in Paw Paw

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