The harvest update is far enough into the season that we can look to the results: finished wines in barrel and tank. First stop is at the cellar of Blue Mountain Family Estate Winery. Late on a Sunday night Matt is still at work and exhausted enough to let us push our way into the cellar. The reward is a taste of finished chardonnay destined for the their sparkling program and their first tank of pinot noir. Both wines earn high marks on the attributes that matter at this point: balance, texture, and flavour. Refinement in the wines shows up at a later point, but right now they’re where they should be. The hard to please Matt seems to enjoy sharing the wine and stays quiet, knowing that the wines are speaking well for themselves.
It was an ideal season for ripening. Big consistent heat from spring to early September pushed grapes from Osoyoos to Vernon to proper maturity, unlike the past two years when we relied on late heat. Even so, a spell of wet and cold weather hit pockets of vineyard, creating micro-climates that invited the nastiness that plagues vines. This compounded with biblical swarms of wasps preying upon the berries put winemaking teams on alert at an earlier than expected date. The picking teams took on the second duty of sorting grapes, and a similar cull happened on the winery floor. It wasn’t easy, but work in the cellar and vineyard preserved the splendor of the summer.
It remains an exciting year for the big reds, wines that do well in a regular year but shine when a climatic blip keeps the thermostat high all year. Two colder seasons of weather forced growers to tighten up on vineyard management practices that accelerate ripening, which is a benefit when the weather cooperates. A warm sun is still hitting the Okanagan/Similkameen, giving flavour to the varieties that are still sitting: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah, to name a few. Expect to taste some excellent wines during barrel tastings next summer!
The Field Guide Wine Editor