Ice Wine from Buhl, Idaho

This is a very interesting article about making a great Ice Wine here in Idaho – Holesinsky Vineyards, Buhl, Id to be precise. The article comes from Magic Valley. [Robin received this article and sent the link to me.]

Ice in their vines: Holesinsky Winery pulls off tricky ice wine harvest

Dec 12, 2019

BUHL — He dipped his pipette into the barrel and pulled out a couple of ounces of liquid gold. “This wine is very, very, very, very, very, very special,” Holesinsky Winery owner and winemaker James Holesinsky said, carefully releasing the yellow-orange ice wine into his glass. Holesinksy has been making wine for 18 years. This is just the second time he’s had a chance to make ice wine. The conditions haven’t been right since 2006. The 2006 harvest was on Halloween; this year’s fell on Oct. 30.
“It’s hard to do,” he said. “The grapes have to be in the perfect condition. You can’t have an influx of an avian bird problem. … All of the stars have to align in order for this to be a reality.”

To make real ice wine, a winemaker has to let his grapes freeze on the vine, harvest them before sunrise while they’re still frozen and squeeze them without letting them thaw. Most of the world’s ice wines come from Germany and Canada. In Idaho, it’s a rarity. The process is risky, but it makes a complex, decadent wine. The winemaker’s harvesting the fruit when the nutrient content peaks. Also, because Holesinsky pressed the grapes while they were frozen, the water content in the wine is lower. It’s a more concentrated product.
“When we picked the grapes while they were frozen, all of the water was suspended as ice,” Holesinsky said. “So when you squeeze them, all you squeeze out is the sugar and the nectar, the flavoring.”

Normally, 2 acres of grapes make 12 barrels of wine. This precious barrel of ice wine — the lone ice wine barrel out of the 40 total barrels Holesinsky made this year — took 2 acres of white Riesling grapes, grown in Hagerman.
“The intensity of flavor is a thousand times a conventional wine,” Holesinsky said.
This ice wine has twice as much sugar as a conventional wine. Most wines are about 21% sugar. This ice wine checks in at 41%. Holesinsky’s ice wine tastes rich and juicy, especially compared to the lemonade-colored wines a few barrels down. Winemakers who can pull off an ice wine earn bragging rights, but the extra work can be lucrative, too. Ice wines are expensive.
This one barrel will sell as 600 half-size bottles and likely earn Holesinksy $30,000 compared to the $24,000 he’d fetch from 12 standard barrels.

Pain in the ice
An enologist has to have perfect weather conditions to make ice wine.
But special weather requirements aren’t the only reason the Gem State doesn’t dabble much in the dessert alcohol. Turning 2 acres of grapes into a barrel of ice wine is grueling.
“We were out picking ice wine at 4 o’clock in the morning at 5 degrees,” Holesinsky said.

It’s not easy to find people willing to wake up in the middle of the night, don headlamps and harvest frozen grapes by hand in Hagerman, Idaho. Labor for the ice wine harvest didn’t come cheap — Holesinsky had to pay his workers $20 an hour. It’s important to finish the harvest quickly — before the sun can start melting the ice in the fruit — so it takes a big crew.
After Holesinsky had the grapes off the vines, he had to press them in the cold.
Normally it takes about 45 minutes to squeeze enough grapes for a barrel of wine. But frozen grapes are tougher.
“You have to squeeze the living (heck) out of it for about four days,” Holesinsky said.
Because the fruit was so full of minerals, Holesinsky said the juice initially smelled like sawdust and dirt, almost like wet cardboard.
The challenge doesn’t end once the juice is in the barrel. Because the sugar content is so high, it’s more difficult to initiate the fermentation process, and it’s trickier to keep the yeast alive. This ice wine is 14% alcohol.
If Holesinsky had been unlucky, birds could have eaten up a large amount of his crop. If he’d waited too long, the grape plants could have taken up the water in the grapes, drawing it into their roots, leaving withered raisins on the vines. The fruit could have started rotting, too.
An ice wine harvest also taxes the plants in the vineyard. When a grape plant senses a freeze, it will pump nutrients into its grapes to provide nourishment for its seeds. That improves the wine, but it comes with a cost.
“They pull all of the resources out of that cane — extra sugar, extra amino acids, polysaccharides, you name it,” Holesinsky said.
That stress isn’t a big deal when you’re only doing an ice wine once every decade or so, Holesinsky said, but you wouldn’t want to weaken your plants with an ice wine harvest every year.

From the vineyard to the shelves
After aging the ice wine for about six months, Holesinsky will bottle it. He’ll filter it lightly before bottling, which will make it less cloudy, but he’ll leave some of the sediment in order to retain the complex flavors. He said a bottle will probably sell for roughly $71 in stores.

Holesinsky Winery last made ice wine 13 years ago. The 2006 Liquid Gold Ice Wine, seen Dec. 5, was an award winner.

When Holesinsky made his first ice wine in 2006, it was good, but a bit syrupy. This one will be better, he said. He hopes people get a chance to taste the wine after all the hard work that went into it.
“It’s very unique,” Holesinsky said. “You don’t get to experience this every day.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include that the ice wine was harvested at the end of October. In addition, due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misstated how many barrels of ice wine were produced. There was just one.

Farm to Table Feast

And it was a good feast! Held at Peaceful Belly Farm and the new event room and building – Grand Opening November 16–18, noon until 6 pm.
The Farm to Table Dinner Series, “Josie of Peaceful Belly, Scott from Snake River Winery, Clay from Stack Rock Cidery, Nate Whitley chef at the Modern Hotel and Chef Abby Carlson have teamed up to create an amazing 5-course meal held on our magical Sunny Slope farm. The plates are creative, unique, and 100% local and seasonal. These dinners will transport you to another time and place where fresh food is cooked with amazing brilliance and presented to the table in a picturesque farm setting.” Here are some photos from the evening. Enjoy and Left-Click to see any of these photos enlarged. All in all – A good dinner.

Sunset at the farm.
The menu for the dinner.
New event room and tasting room.
Appetizer –

Fingerling Potato, Lentils and Onion

Smoked Trout
Warm Fingerling Potatoes
2012 Arena Valley Riesling

Beef Tongue Carpaccio
Black Garlic Aioli
Roasted Chilis
Sunny Slope Cide

Roasted Winter Squash
Brown Butter Tamari Vinaigrette
2014 Blauer Zweigelt

Reflections at the Intermezzo

Pumpkin Pie Sorbet

Roasted Pork Loin
Onion Puree
Swiss Chard
2009 Reserve Bordeaux Blend

Tri of Ice Cream Sandwiches
2014 Orange Muscat

Idaho Wine Commission and the Idaho Wine Industry Holiday Events

Just in time for the Holiday Season. Great information from the Idaho Wine Commission on holiday wine events. “…Come on out and visit Idaho wineries Friday, November 23rd through Sunday, November 25th. Most wineries are offering special tastings, food pairings, holiday discounts and more! Each winery celebrates the festive weekend their own special way and provides a great experience for all! Can’t make it out for Thanksgiving? Wineries are hosting many special events throughout the upcoming holiday season. Check our event calendar to see all upcoming winery events.” Your Guide to Wine Country Thanksgiving!

Birthday Party for Robin at Parma Ridge Winery and Bistro

And what a super party it was. Great food prepared by Chef Storm – Prime Rib Bar – and awesome family: Chris and Anna, Ray and Annabel Lusty from Utah, Marnie and Eric and Robin and I. Happy that it was still warm enough to eat on the patio overlooking the vineyard, as pictured here. And if you have never eaten at the winery, you really need to go. No! You REALLY need to go. Super good wines! Super good Wait Staff and Owners and super good food prepared by Chef Storm and Sous Chef Megan! Call first though, for reservations. RESERVATIONS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 24509 Rudd Road Parma ID 83660 US (208) 946-5187 See their link in the sidebar. Here are some photos of our visit.

Old and New Parma Ridge Merlot
Chris and Anna
Annabel and Ray Lusty
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Brie Plate
Prime Rib Bar. Chef Storm is slicing the Prime Rib.
Plated Prime Rib Dinner.
Grand Marnier Brûlée
Grilled Peach and Wine

Great Sunday Brunch at Parma Ridge Winery and Bistro

It was a beautiful drive from Boise with the fog forming along the river and in the valleys. Surrealistic. The food was good and the service was super. I’m glad we had reservations as the Bistro was getting full with at least 1 large party. I highly suggest you call for reservations – (208) 946-5187 or text them.
My only suggestion, and I mentioned this to Chef Megan, is to watch the salt content in the Poutine Bowl. I know it was well above the 1¼ teaspoon of daily allowance. It was excessive. But the plus side is the flavors were all there from the chardonnay sautéed mushrooms, cheese and bacon. Look at what we had. Yummy! Add to this a wonderful glass (or two) of the Parma Ridge 2016 Merlot, and you are bound for a super experience. Here is their Menu. If you want a fun and delicious visit to a winery bistro and you are in the Boise area, you must go here. Definitely a 5-Star bistro.

REGULAR HOURS: 12-9 pm Friday
12-5 pm Saturday and
11 am – 5 pm Sunday and serve cuisine all weekend.
Happy Hour on Friday from 4-7 p.m. and a Special Menu all day Sunday!

“Fog in the Valley”


Tasting Room and Bistro
Chef Megan is such a delight. Great to have her come by the tables and see if everything is OK. Beautiful smile!

Storm’s Famous Northwest Clam Chowder (bowl or cup)
with a slice of
Grilled Sourdough Baguette Awesome!

“The Kathleen”
Smoked Blue Cheese
Sautéed Pears
Spicy Pecans
Arugula with a Balsamic Reduction

This is HUGE!

Poutine Bowl
Rosemary Truffle Fries
House Made Demi Glace
Local Fresh Cheese Curds
Chardonnay Sautéed Button Mushrooms
Applewood Smoked Bacon

This is HUGE! Big enough for four!

Wine Club Party at Parma Ridge Winery and Bistro

Close to 100 people, or more, in the new barrel room, which is awesome. And it looks like everyone found the winery ok with the new sign “pointing the way” on hiway 95 – pictured to the left. Look for it! And then being able to use the new barrel room to accommodate all of the people. Such a treat! Artist Stephanie Hodge was the perfect hostess. And Chef Storm Hodge produced some awesome treats to go with the wines being poured. Both Stephanie and Storm are doing a great job with the winery. Look at the following photos to see what Chef Storm made and we consumed. Left Click any of the photos to see them enlarged. And if you want to see what they are doing each week, follow them on the AVA Happenings blog at Parma Ridge Page. (This page changes weekly so follow the page. It’s free.)

We started with a Salmon Spread Bruchetta, but I failed to get a photo. It was too good!

The new barrel room.
Let the party begin!
Some of the many people who attended.
These are the wines that were in our package.
The Smyser’s pour some wine.
Yummy sliders!
Storm’s Flatbread
chicken, house bbq sauce, cilantro and cheese
Bacon Wrapped Shrimp


Thank-You Storm and Stephanie Hodge, owners and winemaker of Parma Ridge Winery in Parma, Idaho for a great evening of food and wine!

Brunch at Parma Ridge Winery

Thank you so much Artist Stephanie and Chef Storm Hodge for another delightful brunch! These brunches are superb! 5-Star! (Bistro Weekend Menusubject to change – or Parma Ridge Winery and Bistro) And many thanks to Garry and Donna for meeting us at the bistro for lunch, despite the highway detours! Here is what we had along with our 2016 Parma Ridge Winery Tre Bianchi and a 2015 Parma Ridge Winery Carmenere. Cheers! Left-Click any of these photos to see them enlarged.


Coconut Breaded Deep-Fried Shrimp
Coconut Lime Rice
Korean Barbeque and Sweet Chili Dipping Sauces
They were that good! Started out with 6 shrimp.


Korean Barbeque Chicken Skewers
Coconut Lime Rice and a Korean Barbeque Sauce


Parma Ridge Pear Salad
Mixed greens with apple cider vinaigrette, Bleu Cheese and Poached Pear with Grilled Bread


Grilled Flat-Bread
Italian Sausage, Pepperoni and Mushroom with Homemade Red Sauce


Parma Ridge Cream of Mushroom Soup


Brunch Burger – Quarter-Pound Black Angus Burger
Melted Double Cream Brie, Apple-wood Smoked Bacon, and Sunny-side up Egg
Lemon-Tarragon Aioli and Rosemary Garlic Truffle Fries


Best Ever Biscuits and Gravy
Sausage Gravy

Fresh Bacon Cheddar Biscuit topped with a Sunny Side Up Egg

And to follow-up from the Parma Ridge Winery web page,

Savor the Flavor
Offering both an in-house menu in the Tasting Room and custom menus for your scheduled event, Storm is looking forward to making your day special. From appetizers to full course meals, Parma Ridge offers both the taste and the view. Come by during tasting room hours to enjoy one of his delicious menu items, or contact us today to plan your special event!

I did mention to Stephanie that Robin and I have probably had close to all of the items offered on the menu. We have never had a bad selection, but there are some we prefer! The Parma Ridge Bistro is definitely a 5-Star winery bistro in the Snake River AVA.


Love this photo by Stephanie Hodge! So dramatic! I understand that it may be a label sometime in the future.