Recent cold snap not long enough to complete Okanagan icewine harvest

FILE PHOTO - Pickers work the icewine harvest at Summerhill winery in Kelowna in 2015. The cold weather late last week wasn't enough for the Okanagan icewine harvest to be completed.
Image Credit: Xavier Semmelink

The Arctic blast in the Okanagan late last week lacked the duration and intensity needed for Okanagan wineries to complete their icewine harvest.

Temperatures started rising on the weekend and icewine harvesters were left with too narrow a window to harvest all their frozen grapes. Icewine harvesting requires a hard freeze of the grapes to at least -8 Celsius before they can be picked. 

Growers have their fingers crossed they won't have to wait until February like they did last year for the next freeze. The longer grapes are left on the vine, the more losses can occur due to animals and dropped fruit

Winemaker Michael Alexander of Summerhill Pyramid Winery says it wasn’t as cold as predicted in most of Summerhill’s vineyards but they were able to harvest about 10 per cent of the crop on Friday night, Nov. 29, and into Saturday.

“We were able to pick for about five or six hours on Friday night and picked 4.5 tons from Lake Country, and again for a short period on Saturday where we picked another 0.6 tons,” Alexander says.

The winery still has 45 tons left to pick.

“We would have liked to have gotten it in, but Mother Nature didn’t agree this time,” he says.

Further south on the Naramata Bench, Bench 1775 Winery’s Jesci Parsons says the winery was also only able to pick about eight per cent of its total icewine crop.

“We did manage to get cold enough temperatures in Keremeos and were able to pick that block,” she says.

Temperatures got down to the -8 C mark in the Naramata Bench for a short period but Parsons says the window was too short to pick.

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