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Mild winter takes its toll on Lake County's ice wine crop

Most of us aren't complaining about the mild winter we've had, but the warmer temperatures mean we'll have to wait longer for a fresh bottle of ice wine.

LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — Head east to Lake County and you'll enter wine country, where several of Ohio's favorite brands are grown, pressed, and bottled.

Because of our cold weather climate, it's also the perfect place to get a sweet, dessert-style wine called ice wine. However, warmer temperatures this winter have delayed the process this season. 

"What we're looking at is grapes that are almost frozen, it takes about 18 degrees for 6 hours to freeze the grapes completely," explains Gene Sigel, vineyard manager at Chalet DeBonne Vinyards. He says a mild winter like this is rare, but a good thing when it comes to making the best product. 

"When you drink quality flavor and you taste it, you realize it requires patience," Sigel says.

While most wines age in a barrel to make complicated, bold flavors, ice wine does it's aging on the vines. The longer it takes before grapes freeze and get picked, the better the bottle will be. 

"And so once we ferment it and press it, it's more or less ready to be bottled. It doesn't require a lot of aging and there's not a lot of treatment," describes Sigel, who adds that the silver lining of the warmer temperatures in December is that the vineyard will have very flavorful grapes that should make a vintage quality ice wine this season. 

When the weather does finally cooperate, distilleries and your taste buds will benefit from this sweet treat in a bottle. It's probably one of the only times you'll see people rooting for a cool down. 

"It has been important to our economy, and so we're glad to see that ice wine has become so popular amongst our consumers," says Sigel.