In this article I share an insider’s view of the 2016 grape harvest in British Colombia, Canada, from winemakers and grape growers.
If pressed to guess, where in the world is the picture above?
Where is Summerland? Where on Earth is Evolve Cellars located? HelloBC tells us: “Summerland (population 10,828) is an agricultural community with a location that makes it a natural tourist destination.The town centre is situated in a flat area above Okanagan Lake with fertile valleys defined by forested ridges. Giant’s Head Mountain, an extinct volcano, dominates the skyline.”
Ah, you think: British Columbia! Those vines, that lake..how gorgeous! But the wine estates of British Columbia are more than just a pretty face. According to BC Wine Institute, this is a $2 billion industry and with this year’s harvest, sites are set on more happy wine consumers. The 2016 harvest is excitingly promising. Cowichan Valley, Fraser Valley and Okanagan Valley winegrowing regions experienced early bud break from a hot dry summer, resulting in an earlier-than-usual harvest. For some wineries, 2016 brought the earliest harvest yet.
So, wine-drinkers…what does this mean for us? If you haven’t experienced BC wine, this harvest might contain your first-ever bottle. If you’ve been a fan for some time now, expect more of the flavor and quality of which you’ve grown fond. Sujinder Juneja, my friend and correspondent from Town Hall Brands, a local company with many winery partnerships, has connected L’occasion with BC growers and winemakers to provide an update
Facts That Shape BC Wine Now
According to BC Wine Insitute: “A low Canadian dollar and a warm and dry spring and summer were among factors that led Statistics Canada to report that US visitor arrivals to BC were up 18.8% in April and 5% in May 2016. BC Ferries also saw an increase of 4% over last year in passenger volume commuting to and from Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria throughout the month of May.”
Harvest Reports from The Growers
Blue Grouse Estate Winery
Bailey Williamson, winemaker for Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan is ready for harvest at the Cowichan Valley estate where some of the oldest vines on Vancouver Island grow. The Blue Grouse harvest began with the popular Siegerrebe, an aromatic white varietal which tends to ripen earliest (see above). “There is now a break in harvest until the end of September, when the rest of the grapes will be harvested in earnest. With Island winemaking, the challenges may be great, but with careful attention, the rewards are greater.”
Based on data collected at the winery since he started in 2012, the harvest started within a week of normal.
Lawrence Buhler is director of winemaking for ENCORE Vineyards, which produces wines under the TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters collection labels.Lawrence says, “It was a very early start to the season, with some amazingly warm weather, which catapulted us into an early vintage. This is especially true for our sparkling and aromatic white varieties. We started on August 17 in Oliver, two days ahead of 2015, another early vintage, with our Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay for sparkling wine. We have almost completed harvest for our still whites, including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. We will likely begin harvesting the whites from our Summerland vineyard site at Evolve (Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris) within the next two weeks.”
“Our red varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah) for TIME are still a good four weeks away, while Gewürztraminer and Riesling from Kelowna is also about two to four weeks away from harvest.”
Lawrence Buhler, Director of Winemaking for ENCORE Vineyards
More About British Columbia Wine
Wines of British Columbia has a generous website which offers a Trip Planner, Wine Tips, and Pairing Suggestions, and so much more… visit away at Wine BC.
BCWine Trends has been my go-to source for wine writing and perspectives in British Columbia. Having just enjoyed a first anniversary, this blog has fresh and frequent posts and is fun to read!
Thanks to Sujinder Juneja of Town Hall Brands for making these connections and providing the quotes and photography from each of the vineyards. Photos are credited to estates unless otherwise indicated.