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After several arduous years fraught with challenging vintages, hard winters and overall reduced crops, it is a pleasure to see that harvest levels are returning to normal. In 2012, the total reported tonnage was 30,100 and in 2013 that number is looking closer to 33,000.
The outstanding summer weather in 2013 led to the earliest start to the BC grape harvest on record, with the first grapes for table wine picked by Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate (Sauvignon Blanc from their Bear Cub vineyard) on August 27, more than a week ahead of the 2012 vintage that started on September 7.
Derek Kontkanen, white winemaker for Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate explained the spectacular summer.
"This is my tenth vintage here and it’s great to see a return to more normal Okanagan-like weather, similar to 2008 and 2009, with a warm and consistent growing season," Kontkanen said. "When looking at the numbers, so far this season is shaping up to be a very good vintage. The flavour profile of our first varietal to come in Sauvignon Blanc is just what we’re aiming to achieve — grassy, grapefruit and tangerine tropical notes, along with good balance of sugar and acidity."
In the Similkameen Valley, Seven Stones winery picked their first grapes on October 2. Owner and winemaker George Hanson rates this vintage as a 10 out of 10 noting it was "One of the best vintages we’ve ever had at Seven Stones.
"I’m really happy with the quality and phenolic development of the grapes and we had really good quantity as well." Hanson is particularly excited about the flavours of his 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Vista D’Oro in the Fraser Valley reports they harvested their estate Maréchal Foch on
October 12 at 22 Brix, which Owner/Winemaker Patrick Murphy crushed and pressed the same day to create their light style red. Murphy notes that it was the most humid summer in years, which wreaked a bit of havoc with their white varieties. In addition to their Langley fruit, Vista D’Oro receives fruit from the Cowichan and Similkameen Valleys as well and reports excellent Pinot Noir from the Island and "some of the best Foch we’ve ever seen" from Olalla.
On Vancouver Island, Glenterra Vineyards started their harvest in the first week of October. Owner John Kelly noted the overall growing season was good with bud break right on schedule, which was a nice change from previous vintages. There was a bit of rain through early September, which burned off in October for a clear harvest. Kelly is particularly excited about the quality of his Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc.
Rolf de Bruin, Owner of Fort Berens Estate Winery in Lillooet reports an overall good season. "It started off great with a much warmer than average spring. April and May were particularly warmer, which accelerated planted development in early stages. We are now in our fifth leaf, so it’s great to have a nice, easy start for the vines when root development is happening."
After the warm spring, summer was average, with no heat spikes to stop ripening, so the vines saw good continual development. In late summer, early September, de Bruin explains that the pressure from diseases and pests was greater than normal with lots of wasps in particular. Luckily, the weather cooled in September which slowed them down. Harvest at Fort Berens began on September 21 with their Pinot Noir, followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The white harvest was on par with 2012, where the reds came in nearly two weeks earlier than last year.
Rolf is particularly excited about the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.
"We did some single bunching this year with the potential of creating a reserve pinot," Rolf said. "I’m also very excited about our Cabernet Franc. We were just amazed by the flavours. Overall, everything is tasting really nice."
Even with a soggy end to the season and numerous battles with wasps, vintners across the province are excited about the both quality and quantity this vintage. Some of the standout varietals for 2013 look to be Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. ■
The BC Wine Institute represents 119 winery members and 17 grape growing partners that represent 95% of the province’s total wine production and produce 88% of wine production made from 100% B.C. grapes.