Weather struck a balance in valley vineyards this year

Wild Goose Vineyards' marketing manager Leslie Matheson checks out some nearly ripe riesling at Wild Goose Vineyards. Grape harvest of sparkling wine varieties is already under way in the Okanagan.

PENTICTON - Rain falling on Okanagan vineyards this week isn’t exactly what growers need right now, but no one is complaining about the weather too much - yet.

Okanagan Falls’ Wild Goose Vineyards’ general manager Roland Kruger says he’s “extremely excited” about this year’s vintage.

“I was out in the vineyard with some clients yesterday. Some of the varieties are almost ready for picking,” he says. “Riesling is one of the later varieties. I thought it would still be tart, but they’re actually quite sweet. I was pleasantly surprised how things are progressing."

Summer weather was shifted a bit, with June “not that bad,” but with July came more moisture, which reduced heat levels.

Kruger says at one point in the summer it felt like the grower degrees days (a measurement of ripening) were off, but a check revealed they were right on average for the past three years.

“This summer was a nice balance of weather and temperatures. It wasn’t super hot here,” he says. “This week is a bit unsettled, but the longer term forecast points to more suitable conditions.”

Kruger expects harvest to begin around the 20th of September, which is the vineyard’s traditional start.

“It’s looking like a normal harvest as far as pick dates are concerned,” he says.

Kruger says yields look to be about average this year as well.

“We aren’t looking at a massive crop. I think we’ll have average volumes coming in this year,” he says.

Further north along the Skaha Bench, Blasted Church vineyard manager John Bayley echoes similar sentiments about the growing season.

“It’s been pretty much a typical year timing wise for ripening. We are on par with 2017, and close to 2018,” he says.

“The rain right now is an issue, it’s slowing things down. Nonetheless, we’re seeing great phenolic development and controlled acids. I think it’s going to be a fantastic year,” Bayley says.

A warmer finish to August would have been welcome, but Bayley says he’s pleased with what he’s seen so far.

“There was a decent amount of precipitation, so some vineyards have had to manage mildew pressure, but there was no smoke either, which really made a difference in August,” he says.

Bayley says sparkling wine grapes are already being harvested, with Blasted Church expected to be harvesting ‘full on’ starting next week.

“I’m pretty optimistic, especially if the rains ease up a bit,” he says. “Late September and October are crucial months, weather-wise, for reds. Things are looking good, although a bit more warmth would make things easier.”

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