Harvest Report 2013
August 31st, 2013
Two-plus decades of growing wine in the Okanagan haven't trained Mother Nature to behave just as winemaker John Simes would wish, but all in all she looks like she has given her blessing to John's 22nd Okanagan vintage.
Looking back to the beginning of the year, a relatively mild winter knuckled under for a short window of opportunity to harvest a tiny Riesling Icewine crop on Mission Hill Road during the night of January 12th. In addition, our Naramata Ranch estate yielded an exceptional Late Harvest Vidal on February 20th, missing the coveted Icewine designation by less than 1°C!
Back to the 2013 Okanagan growing season which, by all accounts, has been a season of change but with the prospect of being an exceptional year so far; a blessing after a string of cooler vintages that adversely affected most West Coast appellations by slowing ripening and keeping grapes on the vine until late fall (early winter?).
"It has been a challenging year," said John Simes, "but the potential exists as at the end of August for an excellent year. After an extremely rainy June, July and August were above average temperatures and the Okanagan Valley has enjoyed a wonderful summer of warm sunny days. We are planning to start harvesting next week, with select parcels of south Okanagan Sauvignon Blanc. The red grapes will continue to ripen into late September and October."
Weather hasn't been this warm across the region since 2007, a year that produced a highly regarded vintage. If the warm temperatures continue through September, and the prediction for at least the first two weeks is for above average temperatures, it could mean fruit-intensive wines from an early and abundant crop.
However, dealing with changing weather patterns is part of growing wine grapes, a long dance with the elements to achieve a precise combination of sugar levels and acidity. Our vineyard teams can remove leaves to let more sunshine hit fruit. They can drop clusters to improve flavours and quicken ripening in cool years. And they constantly monitor forecasts to know when to irrigate and when to leave things alone.
For this vintage, we'll start picking white grapes sooner than later and we're carefully watching Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which are already in veraison, turning red and starting to ripen. Everything is moving at a faster pace than "normal".
Weather changes are among the major factors that make vintages distinctive. In the case of Oculus, the cool 2011 season produced a red blend with herbal and fresh fruit notes. The weather was warmer in 2007, producing wines with riper fruit flavours.
"Reacting to the variable weather patterns we've experienced in recent summers has made making wines like Oculus in the Okanagan Valley both exhilarating and challenging," comments John Simes, "but we are very excited about the prospects for 2013."
Director of Wine Education