The late, great harvest – or something like that.
It’s been an interesting year in the world of viticulture – an early warm March followed by a cold, wet June meant delays in plants springing to life and bearing fruit. It all translates into a slightly delayed harvest for our BC grape growing and winemaking community, from Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan. No matter where they are, viticulturists and winemakers are doing their best to play along to the funky beat put out by Ma Nature this year.
On Twitter, the talk has been fun and playful – even optimistic. Maybe it’s because the players who’ve been in this game a while took the right steps early in the year to help mitigate any potential issues. Follow the #BCHarvest2010 hashtag for news about this year’s bounty from your favourite social-media savvy BC wineries.
Some of the top Tweeters in the Harvest conversation are:┬áSandra Oldfield, winemaker at Tinhorn Creek; Bradley Cooper, winemaker at Township7; Dwight Sick, winemaker at Stag’s Hollow; Crystal Froese at Dunham & Froese; and the folks at Herder Winery. There’s plenty of tweeps (Twitter Peeps) chiming in on the harvest, and since conversation is what Twitter is all about, it makes a great place for people to connect with our winemakers and grape growers for honest interaction.
Harvesting is different at every site. I didn’t know much about mechanical harvesting until I spent some time with Andrew Moon, viticulturist at Tinhorn Creek. That in itself is an education; the guy’s in love with what he does, so if you get the chance to chat with him about anything vineyard, be prepared to invest some time.
New technology means mechanical harvesters have developed in leaps and bounds – so much so that the equipment is pricey for anyone with fewer than 200+ acres. In the meantime, smaller vineyards can contract or lease the equipment from a select few; not many of our local vineyards and wineries have enough acreage to justify even leasing the equipment. Between the 50 acre Tinhorn vineyard and the 100 acre Diamond Back vineyard (located on the Black Sage Bench), Andrew has enough grapes on hand to play with the big toys.
Andrew makes the decision to machine or hand harvest based on what’s in the best interest of the grapes. And the technology is so good that he can dial-in to have the machine leave behind what’s not wanted – unripe clusters or anything with a spot of trouble. When hand harvesting, pickers are usually paid by the bin – the incentive to be more selective just isn’t there. Another perk of the machine harvest is efficiency: often the harvester can be out, working and done by 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, getting multiple bins to the ‘crush pad’ in time for a day-long date with the winemaker and cellar team.
Despite what nature had in store for the growing season, our BC growers and winemakers seem to be happy with what they’re harvesting. And when that happens, chances are we’ll be happy when it comes time for us to pour ourselves a glass to un*wine*d with. I’m betting on our talented folks to get some delicious flavours out of 2010 – just you wait.