BC Wine 2013 Preview

26 Apr

Yesterday I attended a BC Wine 2013 Preview tasting put on by the BC Wine Institute. The tasting was led by DJ Kearney who guided us through a panel of winemakers from around BC. I was intrigued off the bat as DJ mentioned that we were going to ‘decode’ the vintage. This is not a term I’d ever heard used before and I suddenly felt like a secret agent looking for clues. She talked about ‘authentic and honest expression’ of the vintage. I’m all for that!

BC now has ‘emerging’ regions joining the five existing wine regions.

Existing regions: Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley
Emerging regions: Shuswap, North Okanagan, Lillooet, Cache Creek, Thompson-Nicola, West Kootenays

As DJ was commenting on the good yields of 2013 another term came up that I hadn’t heard of – short tonne. A short tonne is 2000 pounds. A full vintage report will come out in July.

On the panel were:

Bob Johnson - Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery
Darryl Brooker - CedarCreek Estate Winery
Robert Thielicke - Joie Farm
Michael Bartier - Okanagan Crush Pad
Dwight Sick - Stag's Hollow Winery & Vineyard
John Weber - Orofino Vineyards

Some of the things that I learned:

  • The soil at Baillie-Grohman is glacial with a mix of granite and clay. The high mineral content is their biggest challenge. Their 23 acres of estate land are influenced by the Kootenay Lake which is 20 miles away. They don’t really have any problems with insects and there are about 700 crows which chase away any birds that would normally eat the grapes. Land there goes for about $40,000/acre and there’s vineyard land available. The winemakers in this region share their knowledge and experiences with each other.
  • CedarCreek has 150 acres in Kelowna and Osoyoos. 2013 came with challenges and the acidity was harder to rein in on the whites. They had a great Bordeaux red harvest though. I was interested to hear how they co-pick and co-ferment these reds. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, some Malbec and Petit Verdot: sounds like a great stew in the making!
  • Joie had a tough year but still managed to make good wine! They suffered from something called ‘sour rot’ which is essentially wet/bad botrytis. They lost a lot of their Rosé program grapes. What they could save started to ferment immediately. They saved themselves by reacting quickly!
  • At OCP their grapes ‘galloped into ripeness’. This can be a challenge if hang time is reduced as that’s what brings flavour to the grapes. Their pruning techniques and a cool fall helped save them.
  • At Stag’s Hollow they have vineyards that have come to maturity. Dwight likes to refer to their region in Okanagan Falls as the ‘Goldilocks of the valley’ – not too hot and not too cold. I love this term!! They can have a 9° variance from one part of the vineyard to the other. Their soil is gravel, rock and sand. We were very lucky to try some of their small production Renaissance Sauvignon Blanc. Such an interesting wine that emulates a Bordeaux Graves.
  • The Similkameen Valley, where Orofino is located, is a very hot place to grow wine. Their soil is sandy loam on gravel and river rock.

I will never tire of opportunities to hear people speak passionately about grape growing and wine making. As one winemaker joked, Canada is considered an ‘emerging region’ when it comes to wine. Leaders such as the ones on this panel will help to pave the way for Canadian wines to take the lead roles in the wine world.

In conclusion DJ announced that 2013 is going to be a ‘solid’ vintage. Solid and more!

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