Harvest in British Columbia

In this article I share an insider’s view of the 2016 grape harvest in British Colombia, Canada, from winemakers and grape growers.

Evolve Cellars in Summerland. Photo Credit: Chris Stenberg

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.”

“British Columbian grape growers farm within what is known globally as a cool-climate region. With lower average temperatures and higher rainfall than other more southerly regions, BC grapes require more (hang) time on the vine to ripen and to accumulate flavor and aromatic compounds. An earlier bud break, paired with cooler temperatures in July, August and September, will allow BC wineries to produce a vintage of exceptional potential quality.”
Siegerrebe, which you’ll read about below, is an early-harvest red-skinned grape used to make wine wines. Indigenous to Germany, the name translates to “champion vine” or “victory vine”. Low in acid, this grape appears as a blend in off-dry to sweet wines. This grape is new to me, as it may be to you… so nice-to-meet-you Siegerrebe!
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.


Blue Grouse Winemaker Bailey Williamson

Derek Ford Photographer

Blue Grouse Estate Winery. Photo Credit: Derek Ford Photographer

Derek Ford Photographer

Blue Grouse Estate Winery. Photo Credit: Derek Ford Photographer

Singletree Winery
Andrew Etsell, GM and viticulturist of Singletree Winery in Abbotsford (on the mainland) shares, “We started with our Siegerrebe, which is evolving into one of our most popular wines. We’re also keeping a close eye on our estate Pinot Noir, which will be used in our first-ever estate sparkling wine. Other estate varietals, such as our Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc, will follow after Pinot Noir harvest.”
Overall, Etsell predicts the crop will be lighter than usual, however the fruit is very clean and high quality. Harvest began on August 25 – one full week earlier than 2015 – and its earliest harvest on record. “We may not harvest as much fruit as we did in 2015, but the 2016 vintage will offer incredible fruit which in turn will make some great quality wine.”
View More: http://typeaphotography.pass.us/onetree

Singletree’s Debbie and Noah Etsell

View More: http://typeaphotography.pass.us/onetree

Singletree’s Andrew Etsell

Serendipity Winery
Katie O’Kell from Serendipity Winery in Naramata says, “We started our harvest on August 29 with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (for sparkling wine) and continued on August 31 with our Viognier, also for our sparkling program. With a weather forecast that remains dry but cool, the phenolics (flavor and aromatic compounds) will be able to catch up to the Brix (a measure of potential alcohol), currently sitting in the low 20s.”
She shares, “This year is looking fantastic – likely better than last year. We’ll start the rest of the harvest later this week, starting with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, which will be about the same as 2015, which was about two weeks earlier than normal. No matter what, we’ll only pick when the grapes are ready.”

Serendipity’s Katie O’Kell and Judy Kingston


Serendipity Winery

ENCORE Vineyards

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.”evolve-cellars-winemaker-lawrence-buhler

Lawrence Buhler, Director of Winemaking for ENCORE Vineyards

More About British Columbia Wine

Earlier this year, BCWine Trends shared a 2015 vintage report with L’occasion and you’ll find it here to read up, North of the Border: British Columbia Wines.

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.


7 thoughts on “Harvest in British Columbia

  1. Jill: Thanks again for the mention. Yes the 2016 Vintage will be awesome in BC. I have included comments from some of the Okanagan Valley wineries in my recent posts. Cheers Julian

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for a great intro to BC wines. I traveled to Vancouver for the first time last year, but had no time to do any wine exploration. I did, however, get to drink some local wines while I was there and they were terrific! Can’t wait to go back and delve into a bit more of the wine story.

    Liked by 1 person

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