Okanagan grape growers who have an icewine crop to harvest are watching the thermometer closely this week.
The forecast calls for an extended period (more than a couple of days) of below zero temperatures, making it look very likely the icewine harvest will occur this week.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery winemaker Michael Alexander says it’s looking good for picking in the next few days.
“We’re looking closely at the forecast. Across the valley it looks like they are calling for -9 Celsius tomorrow night, -13 C on Thursday and -14 C on Friday. It probably won’t get cold long enough to pick tomorrow but we’ll be checking,” Alexander says.
The winery is making plans to bring everything in Thursday night.
With around 20 acres of grapes to pick in six different vineyards, Alexander says the pick could be completed in a single night, “in a perfect world.”
“It depends how many pickers we have, and how long the cold window lasts. It could take one night, or up to three nights,” he says.
Alexander says the winery organizes as many pickers as it can, trying to get the picking done before it warms up above -8 C. He says picking staff can be difficult to get in when needed.
“We have some loyal pickers who come every year, and others who want to experience it, if only once,” he says.
The winery starts fielding pickers in September, adding their names to a list. On a day where it looks like the harvest could take place, potential pickers are told to check for a message on their phones and when the pick is actually confirmed, Alexander starts at the top of the list and begins working his way down.
“We’ve never had too many pickers,” he says.
The work is done with gloves on, as the frozen fruit clusters break off the vine, so there is no need for cutting implements.
“It's a quick process, you just snap them off,” Alexander says.
Summerhill’s icewine varieties this year include Ehrenfelser, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Blanc and Zweigelt.
If the grapes come off this week, it will be a big relief to the icewine makers of the valley. Last year’s warm winter through January delayed picking until the first week of February, something they would all like to avoid this time around.
“It will be nice to get the crop in, then we can all book our holidays, and avoid that extra stress involved in waiting,” he says.
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