B.C. ice wine makers welcome latest harvest they’ve ever seen

Late harvests of ice wine grapes happened last week for wineries that left their grapes hanging

With time running out, Okanagan wineries that delayed picking for the final time this season were rewarded with the arrival of last week’s arctic flow deep freeze.

“We’re breathing a sigh of relief, that’s for sure,” said general manager and winemaker Val Tait of Bench 1775 Winery in Naramata. “I would have pulled the pin a lot earlier, my cutoff is pretty well the middle of January and I’ve never had a season where we didn’t hit ice wine before the middle of January.

“But our vineyard manager was just like, ‘let’s hang on, let’s hang on until the end of the month.’ Then this weather system was forecast and it was right, it’s a good thing my vineyard manager was so faithful.”

General manager and winemaker Val Tait of Bench 1775 Winery with some of the grapes left on the vine following last week’s ice wine grape harvest.
Mark Brett/Western New

Her winery left 35 acres of fruit hanging and were predicting to harvest 100 tonnes, but due to the lateness of picking they only had about a quarter of that.

Bench 1775’s wines have earned it the distinction as one of the top eight wineries in Canada and top four in B.C.

Last year’s winter harvest began in early December, coming on the heels of the November 2017 earliest start to ice wine grape picking in the past decade.

The longer it takes for the mercury to reach the desired temperatures (below -8 C) for the required time, the greater the loss to the wineries.

“If we had picked earlier, it would have been better,” said Tait. “The fruit was pretty beat up by this point. Then there’s predation that happens and the fruit literally just starts to melt after awhile, so the yields were pretty low. Pretty small amount of fruit but the quality is very good.

“When you pick it earlier you have more of a fresh fruit kind flavours predominating and when you get the fruit in this late in the season you get more caramel and honey, more developed flavours that come from dried fruit characteristic — so they’re both equally beautiful.”

Related: The Okanagan ice wine harvest isn’t looking so hot

She added the challenge-reward factor of growing grapes in such a unique region makes a winemakers job particularly interesting.

“We see a lot of climatic variations and we never know what the weather is going to deliver, so the fruit is almost always different. I love that,” said Tait.”We grow the fruit to a certain style. You never know what you’re going to be delivered fruit wise. It’s beautiful to be able to play with that but sometimes it’s nerve-wracking like this year.”

There is the added stress on the crews of pickers and processors as the grapes must be processed while still frozen.

“It’s hard on the team because they’re working round the clock in such cold conditions and it’s a mad rush to get it off and processed as quickly as possible,” said Tait.

A few kilometres up the road winemaker Kathy Malone of Hillside Winery was also glad she decided to wait just a bit longer.

“I was planning to pull the plug. I had actually scheduled in that we would pick as a late harvest the previous week and then the forecast was for cold,” said Malone, adding the winery only got 0.7 of the one tonne they were hoping for. “I talked to the wine authority (B.C. Wine Authority) the week before and I think they said 2000 was the last time there was no ice wine harvest. Since 2002 we’ve very often had early arctic outflow, always nice when it happens in November because then it’s done. It’s really hard on the crew to come off this intense harvest cycle.”

Related: Icewine harvest begins for some Okanagan wineries

For the first time the winery actually transported its wooden hand basket press to their Hidden Valley vineyard to process on site.

“It was like the first scene from (the film) Les Misérables those guys cranking away at that press it really sounds like they’re maniacal down there,” she said with a laugh.

So come May or June there will once again be ice wines on the shelves the select local wineries that left the fruit hanging on the vines.


 

@PentictonNews
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


 MarkBrett
Send Mark Brett an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Child care severely lacking in Kaslo, says new study

Report says Kaslo needs 10 times the current number of available spaces

Province offers support to safeguard Kootenay fruit pickers

All seasonal fruit pickers will need to take an online COVID-19 awareness course

Nelson Air Cadets receive promotions and awards

The squadron has been operating virtually since March

LETTER: High Street decision disappointing

From reader Tanya Skok Hobbs

Selkirk College offering employees voluntary resignations

The college is canvassing employees for those who may want some time off or reduced work loads

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

‘A little bit scary for everybody’: Air passengers wary as new rules take effect

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20

VIDEO: Prince William and Kate chat with B.C. hospital staff about COVID-19

Seven-minute video posted to Youtube on Canada Day

River centre says heavy rains could bring flooding to central, northeastern B.C.

Water levels are already unusually high and river banks can be extremely unstable

Most Read