A Family Makes Apple Ice Wine

By Rebecca Rethore

The Holtzman’s of Harvard, MA found themselves vacationing in the Finger Lakes area a couple of years ago, sipping the sweet ice wine they can produce in super cold climates like Germany or Canada. Ice wine is a very special commodity. Authentic, pure ice wine is only made by picking grapes from the vine in the early morning hours after the first frost. The frost literally freezes the grapes, such that the water (technically ice crystals) must be pressed from the grapes. This process concentrates the grape juice and natural acid, which do not freeze, giving winemakers a lovely sugary serum from which to make their wine. Because this is a naturally occurring phenomenon that requires an early frost shortly after the grapes have reached their peak ripeness, ice wine is a rare, expensive treat.

Today winemakers can induce a “frost” in an effort to reproduce this process and make the wine more readily available to consumers. Grapes are picked, then frozen, then pressed. It isn’t quite the same thing, but it gives you an idea of what ice wine can be at a more affordable price.

Wade Holtzman thought it would be fun to try making his own ice wine – but using the apples readily available in his own community. Because the ripest apples often fall from the tree well before a frost, Wade decided to apply the latter technique to make his wine. He repeatedly pressed the apples to get pure juice, then froze it, and then thawed it until he achieved the desired result: a fully concentrated serum ripe for fermentation.

Of course, the Holtzman family gathered round to taste his concoction the first time Wade tried his hand at winemaking. As son Leif put it, “it was actually pretty good….” So they invited a few other friends over to give it a try – and it was a hit! With all of this positive feedback, Leif saw an opportunity to turn his dad’s new hobby into a small enterprise. They bought some equipment, ramped up production, and took their wares to the Newport Wine Festival to give their Apfel Eis a real test drive. Once again, their wine captured the enthusiasm of tasters.

Hearing Leif recount this story, I was eager to try the wine for myself. My expectation was for a syrupy sweet, apple cider-like concoction. What I found was a lighter bodied dessert wine, with aromas of red apple, dried apricots and peach. These fruit flavors also emerged on the palate, with a welcome dash of nutmeg and a gentle bite of white pepper coming through, too. A touch of citrus gave the wine additional lift. (Leif recommended trying equal parts Apfel Eis and vodka to create a terrific martini. I’ve no doubt he’s on to something there.)

With distribution now set up in Rhode Island and wife Margot leading the charge for placements in Massachusetts, Wade has established a relationship with Carleson’s Orchards to secure his fruit and meet demand. (86 apples go into just one bottle!) Still River Winery hopes to produce 400 cases of wine this year.

Missed them at the Boston Wine Expo last January? There are several unique opportunities to sample their wares this month. Give them a taste and let them know what you think!

  • Friday, March 13, 5-7 p.m.at Wine Gallery (Brookline)
  • Saturday, March 14, 3-5 p.m. at Colonial Spirits (Stow)
  • Friday, March 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Wine Emporium (South End, Boston)
  • Saturday, March 21, 3-5 p.m.at Julio’s Liquors (Westborough)
  • Tuesday, March 24, 5:30-8 p.m. at the 8th Annual Taste of Nashoba (Groton)
  • Friday, March 27, 5-7 p.m. at Swetts Liquors (Winthrop)
  • Saturday, March 28, 12-3 p.m. at Yankee Spirits (Sturbridge)
Somerville — Rebecca Rethore, Somerville’s own small business owner and wine blogger at Pour Favor,pops over every Monday to give Wicked Local readers a taste of what’s what in the wine world. She specializes in making wine simply approachable and fun. It’s just what she does: Happiness Uncorked!
Posted Mar 09, 2009 @ 05:00 AM
Last update Mar 09, 2009 @ 11:43 AM