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Harbes Family Vineyard ice wine. (Credit: Lenn Thompson)

Thanks to some high ratings from the Wine Advocate, Long Island dessert wines have earned a bit more attention in recent months. And why not? They can be concentrated, intricate and just-plain delicious.

There are myriad ways that non-fortified wines can be made. Some dessert wines are often simply labeled “late harvest” and the grapes are – you guessed it – picked later than normal, allowing sugar levels to swell. Sometimes those grapes will be afflicted by Botrytis cinerea a fungus also known as “noble rot” in wine circles. Words like fungus and rot may not sound appealing, but botrytis dehydrates the grapes, concentrating their sugars and flavors while also adding some flavors of its own. I usually describe it as honey and beeswax.

Another style of dessert wine is “ice wine” or in the case of Long Island examples, “iced wines.” For traditional ice wines, grapes are left on the vine until they freeze – often in January. This can be difficult-to-impossible to accomplish in regions (like ours) where winters can be on the mild side and the fruit will break down or rot (not nobly) before it freezes. In that case, “iced” or “ice-style” wines can be made by picking the grapes and freezing them in a commercial freezer. The frozen grapes are then pressed and because much water is ‘locked’ in the grapes as ice, only the most concentrated, sweetest juice results.

Harbes Family Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay Ice Wine isn’t a true ice wine – the grapes were frozen in a commercial freezer for a week before being processed – but it’s a nice introduction to the style.

Aromas of peach, lemon candy and a little honey jump from the glass.

Rich, and sweet – but balanced – on the palate, there is as sweet lime note that brings a little complexity to the dominant flavors of peach, apricot and more lemon candy. The sweetness is balanced by a gentle tingle of acidity as to not be cloying or over-tiring on the palate.

This wine sells for $35 at the Harbes tasting room.

Lenn Thompson


Southold Farm + Cellar Counting Stars

Pellegrini Vineyards 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

Lieb Cellars 2010 Blanc de Blancs

Macari Vineyards 2014 ‘Lifeforce’ Sauvignon Blanc

Lieb Cellars 2014 Reserve Pinot Blanc

Anthony Nappa Wines 2013 Spezia

Macari Vineyards 2015 Early Wine