Winemaker’s Thoughts on BC Harvest 2019 – Guest Post from Julian Park

Winemaker’s Thoughts on BC Harvest 2019

2019 will be our fifth vintage living in the Okanagan.  Many thanks again to all the winemakers that took the time out of their busy schedules to provide their feedback on the BC Harvest 2019.

Throughout the Okanagan Valley, the cold snap in February led to bud damage this spring. On the positive side, there was no smoke from wildfires and a dry warm summer. The growing season finished with a wetter than average September leading to bunch rot, wasps and birds making it the perfect storm! An early frost in October put an abrupt stop to the growing/ ripening season.

Yields were down but the quality of the fruit was excellent. The winemakers expect 2019 to produce delicious lower alcohol, bright acidity wines.

This first article highlights the harvest for the Okanagan Valley and Shuswap Regions of British Columbia.

Lake Country

Marissa Neuner|Ex Nihilo VINEYARDS

Final day of Ex Nihilo Vineyards #BCHarvest19
The final day of Ex Nihilo Vineyards #BCHarvest19

2019 was off to a beautiful start, the summer was warm and relatively dry, allowing the fruit to ripen evenly across our vineyards. Fruit yields were substantial, with all vineyards producing high-quality clusters that weathered the rainy start to fall.

Despite a frosty few days, the vines maintained their leaf canopy and the fruit continued to develop flavours while the cool snap of the fall season captured beautiful acid levels to compliment the natural sweetness of the berries.

This harvest will produce wines with medium alcohol levels, bright acidity, and bold tannins making them the perfect cellaring contenders.

To read more about Marissa’s recently released wines see – Ex Nihilo Vineyards 2019 Releases – Mysterious Reds and Classic Whites

Kaleden

Rob Hammersley | Black Market Wine Co.

Black Market Wine Co. #BCHarvest19

The 2019 vintage was an interesting one, that’s for sure! A cold snap this past winter caused issues throughout the valley, with our Conviction Ridge vineyard in Kaleden experiencing some damaged buds. Everything was a week or two behind from last year, but nice weather in the summer months helped catch things up.

One of the wettest Septembers in recent history created challenges in the vineyard, but active canopy management and organic sprays kept most problems at bay. Yields were down significantly in our own vineyard, as well as with our partner growers, meaning we’ll have lower case production this year.

Despite the challenges, the overall quality of the fruit was quite good.

To read more about Black Market Wine Co. see – Black Market Wine’s New Releases

Black Market Wine Co. #BCHarvest19

Kelowna

U Andy Gebert | St Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery

St Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery #BCHarvest19
Time to press the Gamay Noir

This was an interesting vintage that depended on where your Vineyard was located. For us and the rest of Kelowna South slopes, we did not get the dismal fruit set or bunch rot (even though we are all going down the organic path).

We also were fortunate to escape the early fall frost that stopped so many growers “cooled”!

David Paterson |Tantalus Vineyards

Tantalus Vineyards #BCHarvest19
Photo Credit: Tantalus Vineyards.

Our 15th harvest is now under our belts and we have to admit it was one for the books and definitely kept us on our toes!  For those not residing in the Okanagan Valley, late August and early September turned very warmhere and brought on our sparkling harvest fairly early compared to recent years. From there the month cooled considerably and unseasonable rains arrived. The unusually wet weather ended up delaying sugar ripeness across all varieties but did allow for extended phenolic maturity to develop.  Picks were carefully scheduled to take advantage of the sunny, dry windows in between.

The arrival of a heavy frost the second week of October, although anticipated, was surprisingly early for our site. Luckily, our remaining Riesling was already slated for harvesting that week and was just enjoying some luxurious extra hang time. We were able to pick the last remaining fruit within a couple of long days and the fruit came in clean with no detrimental effects from the frost.  We celebrated the last bin’s arrival on the crush pad on October 12th,a good two weeks earlier than last year. A growing season to reflect on and now foster in the cellar from here!

“So far from the 2019 vintage, we’re anticipating delicious, low-alcohol wines, reflective of the cooler growing season and ripening phase.  The Pinot Noir ferments are showing power, length and elegance, while the Chardonnays are showing a beautiful textural component. The Rieslings are approaching dryness and we are watching them carefully to pull together the perfect cusp of balance we always seek in these wines.The Riesling aromatics are particularly exciting from this season.“

Naramata

Wilbert Borren|Four Shadows Vineyard & Winery

Four Shadows Vineyard & Winery #BCHarvest19

2019, our 8th growing seasons since we bought the existing vineyard in Penticton. Like many growers will say, no year is the same and that certainly could be said for 2019. The warm weather in January set us up with a vulnerable vineyard in February when the record low temperatures hit the BC interior. Many vines suffered bud damage. Our Merlot and Chardonnay were hit hardest. However, the canopy did fill in nicely with a reduced crop load though.

As the season developed into a mild summer with no extreme high temperatures we believe at Four Shadows that the plants continued to grow and develop at a normal pace and maybe development was ahead of last year as we did not have any overcast from smoke this year.

September proved again that farming all depends on the weather and looking up to the skies “how much rain is today gonna bring”. With all the moisture in the air disease pressure (like mildew and Borthrithis) was high.

Yet we feel fortunate at Four Shadows, as our fruit stayed clean and ripened early due to lighter crop load this year.

Our Chardonnay was harvested September 20 two weeks ahead of last year followed by the Riesling and Pinot Blanc. The lighter crop was our saving grace this year. The early frost in October put an abrupt stop to the growing/ ripening season. Once again the lighter crop also for our reds allowed them to have enough Brix. Just the Merlot we let hang for another week after the frost.

With this year’s crop already put to rest in the barrels, we anticipate above average quality with intense colour and flavour.

To read more about Wilbert’s recent wine releases see – Four Shadows Vineyard & Winery opens Tasting Room

Four Shadows Vineyard & Winery #BCHarvest19

Peter Henricsson |Henricsson Vineyard

Henricsson Vineyard #BCHarvest19

The winter cold was a problem for many, as was some early frosts but we were lucky and had really good early signs. Bud break, flowering and fruits were perfect. Initial shoot growth was very large so you had to keep up with shoot thinning and training.

June and July were great – warm, nice and dry.  No heat spikes.  Veraison in August looked great. In my notes, I said that it was the best I have ever seen the vineyard in August. It looked like an early and great harvest. We cut a lot of fruit during veraison to keep the expected yield down.

Then September hit. Cold, miserable and constant rain. The fruit did not develop much, just swelled with water. Some bunch rot, wasps and birds made it the perfect storm. We did get both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to full ripeness but the size of the harvest was really small.

We always hand sort our grapes but we spent 5 times as many hours in 2019 as a normal year. Only 50% of a normal Chardonnay harvest yield and 65% of Pinot Noir was completed this year. Quality of the little wine we got is looking good though. No VA or off flavours in our wines.

Oliver

Michal Mosny |Winemaker’s CUT

Winemaker's CUT BC Harvest 19

2019 Harvest at Winemaker’s CUT was full of fun and joy!

We started in mid-September. The time frame for harvesting grapes, especially from naturally farmed vineyards was very short as there was a lot of rain. It happened quite many times when the pickers needed to be sent home in the morning due to the risk of rain. We managed to harvest all estate grapes plus new vineyards under our umbrella pretty fast and in good quality. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do as many wild ferments as we use to because of a really rainy fall and we just didn’t know what might be happening inside the grape clusters. But organic yeast managed to ferment all juice to perfection and we are really happy with the outcome so far.

There was a lot of concern about sugar content especially in reds but we harvest our reds at fairly moderate sugars anyway so we are happy with BC Harvest 2019.

We will be extending our “heritage” wines series next year. Gruner Veltliner gets new siblings, wines we used to produce back home in Slovakia. Kerner, Muscat Canelli and Riesling (maybe). All the wines made by using more Slovakian oak.

To read more about Michal’s recent wine releases see – WineMaker’s CUT New Releases

Shuswap

Kevin Verschoor | Waterside Vineyards & Winery

Waterside Vineyards & Winery #BCHarvest19

The BC Harvest 2019 was a huge improvement compared to 2018, with minimal cloud cover, plentiful bright sunshine days, and extra care and attention to the vines. The vineyard is located on the Shuswap Riverbed plateau allowing for minimal need for above-ground irrigation. We had a better yield with higher Brix, better flavours and healthier grape crops.

This year we experimented with running chicken tractors in between the vines, increasing soil fertility and with no need for pesticides.  We had well-trained vineyard staff pruning and keeping a close eye on crops, keeping good airflow through the vineyard preventing powdery mildew and allowing for ease of schedule in organic spray every 14-21 days to combat any lingering mildew.

Crush consisted of close monitoring of the grapes, balancing Brix levels before the wasps and bear invasion. With upgrades to the crushing system and a new press, we had a more efficient and clean crush. Due to the immense sunshine this year, the gentle North Okanagan’s climate allowed us an earlier ripening harvest by about 10  days, leaving us unscathed from frost. The Marechal Foch did extremely well this year, with triple the yields as well as intense flavour, it should be a stand out vintage.

For more BC Harvest 2019 see this earlier post – BC Wineries remain optimistic about the quality of grape harvest 2019

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