Brief Vintage Report
We celebrate the fact that we make wine in a region where vintage variations play an important role. Atypical growing seasons are a nightmare for commercial wineries interested in making consistent but boring wines. For us, however, it defines our interest in wine. We look forward to seeing what Mother Nature gives us to work with each year. It is the effects of each vintage on the finished wine that urges us to start verticals of our favorite wines then follow their evolution and discuss their merits at tastings with friends. Some vintages are all about grace, while others favor power and of course there are ones where they showcase that fine balance of grace and power.
Consistent valley floor to hillside. Red wines of Power and exuberance- Growing degree-days: 1764 (only marginally behind hottest years on record 1998 and 2003)
Are we witnessing climate change? 2015 started with the earliest bud break in our history, saw very hot (42 °C +) summer days (record high June temperatures) which lead to one of the earliest harvests on record: August 18th! After the initial scare of forest fires and small chance of smoke taint passed, harvest took place under ideal conditions. The fruit was homogeneously ripe with little to no need for sorting (except Sangiovese at LaStella winery). Overall our whites are well balanced, due to early picking to preserve acidity and maintain low alcohol. With a cool September (due to temperature inversion in lieu of forest fired) our reds overall are higher in acidity than 2014. The one exception to this was some of our Merlot blocks, as we had to wait longer for phenolic ripeness to arrive. Our Cabernet and Syrah fared much better. Overall 2015 can be compared to 2009, 2012 and 2014, but might not be as long-lived, since the tannins are softer, and the PH levels are higher. 2015 should prove to release delicious, ready to drink wines that will charm in their youth, mid-term and mid to long term for select labels. This is perfect since it will allow Okanagan wine lovers to leave their 2011, 2012 and even 2014s in the cellar longer to mature while they enjoy wines of 2013 and 2015.
Consistent. Wines of power – Growing degree-days: 1702
2014 was the 2nd warmest year since 1998 for South Okanagan. July and October temperatures were way above last year but September was lower than the last 3 years, hence pushing for better phenolic ripeness was not at risk of gaining high alcohol. The tonnage we got was lower than the tonnage excepted mostly because of thicker skins and smaller berried. The wines are concentrated, with a very good ripe tannic structure.
If the last three years are any indication to cautiously generalize from the cold desert nights are not that frequent (certainly cool) during the maturity period and because of the very warm temperature during the day, we tend to see higher pH in the finished wines. A little bit like the south of France/Tuscany…
Variable. Wines of balance while some show power – Growing degree-days: 1624
2013 is a tale of two vintages in the same year. Dry and warm autumn is almost a sure thing in our region. 2013 was a rare exception with an unusual string of rainy days in the middle of harvest. Wines made from grapes harvested before the rain virtually needed no sorting as they showed clean and robust flavors of a dry growing season with plenty of very hot days. The rain was a double edge sword though and a blessing in disguise if you will. On one hand it provided an opportunity for the vines to continue pushing forward for better sugar/acid balance and greater phenolic maturity but on the other hand, it meant the arrival of rot (need for extensive sorting) and flavor dilution in less than ideal sites. Unlike the even and pristine 2011 and 2012 vintage, in 2013 sorting was the keyword along with when the fruit was harvested and in which site it was grown. Buyers of Okanagan wines, in general, are best to shop by producer and well-known sites for their quick draining soil makeup. Taste, before you buy, is our recommendation.
Consistent. Wines of power- Growing degree-days: 1545
2012 growing season is a return to a more typical summer growing season in the South Okanagan Valley. After an initial scare of unusually high record rainfall in late spring, the remainder of the growing season was an absolute dream come true. Mid July till late fall gave us very hot days combined with typical cold desert nights. One of the hallmarks of this vintage was uniformly ripe and clean grape with minimal need for sorting (quite the opposite of 2008 and 2010). The resulting wines are more fruit forward with round structure thanks to plenty of sunshine and heat units; the cool nights resulted in excellent, piercing aromatics and bright acidity in the wine.
Consistent. Wines of grace – Growing degree-days: 1384
2011 was a long and cool growing season without the extreme daytime heat the South Okanagan is known for. This resulted in grapes that achieved full phenolic ripeness at record low sugar levels (and thus low alcohol levels). South Okanagan had an amazing fall with mild weather, which gave us the luxury of a seven-week long picking window. The quality of the fruit and ripeness was very even. This along with the lack of any maladies, rot, and other unwanteds, translated to virtually no need for triage (the triple sorting work we adopt in most vintages). 2011 goes into the history book as an atypically cool, yet a very welcome vintage.
Consistent. Wines of grace and balance – Growing degree-days: 1429
The 2010 growing season was challenging with cool weather and record rainfall during spring and late summer. Fortunately, warm fall weather arrived in mid-September and continued throughout October. This warm fall allowed harvest to take place under excellent conditions. Low yield in the vineyards, starting from the time of bud break, were essential to achieving good physiological ripeness in 2010. Ongoing vineyard management and rigorous sorting were the keywords in the vineyard and winery. When executed correctly the result was vibrant and elegant wines. Whites and rosés are particularly aromatic with focused, pure flavors. Red wines are lower in alcohol with higher acidity level and have firmly structured tannins. 2010 is a vin de garde vintage.
Consistent. Wines of power – Growing degree-days: 1627
In contrast with 2008, the 2009 vintage was hot from the get-go and the sun shone until the early frost in the second week of October. All the heat units combined with very low yields due to damaged buds from the very harsh winter of 08/09 resulted in wines showing riper fruit, rounded acidity, slightly higher alcohol levels and other characteristics associated with a warm vintage.
Variable. Wines of grace while some show great balance. Growing degree-days: 1442
2008 was one of the cooler and more old-world weather years we had in the whole decade. June and July were uneventful. Wet august had many worried but then the weather turned and Indian summer arrived to stay for the duration of the harvest. Picking merlot 3rd week of October in short and t-shirt was certainly a memorable experience.
Variable. Wines of balance and while some show grace – Growing degree-days: 1508
2007 was a refreshing departure coming off two back-to-back warm and dry vintages that favored reds and structured wines over balance and grace. The whites were overall more lean and chiseled while the reds were either balanced or showing great elegance. Mid September rain and cold weather prompted some growers to get out and start picking while others waited it out. The results are as such dependent on when the grapes were picked. Because most whites were picked before or around the time the weather was turning, they show more lean and lithe qualities. Most reds were left on the vine and growers prayed for the best. This in fact materialized and resulted in reds showing a great balance between phenolic maturity and sugar/acid.
Consistent. Wines of power while some show great balance- Growing degree-days: 1550
2006 was not dissimilar to 2005, but perhaps with better balance and yields. 2006 was considered another easy vintage because of lack of disease and pest pressure as well as the absence of untimely rain. 2006 was a vintage of both quantity and quality. The next one to show both traits was 2011 and 2012 but both of these latter vintages yielded wines of different structure and aromatics.
Consistent. Wines of power- Growing degree-days: 1506
2005 was an uneventful year in the vineyard in terms of disease or pest pressure. Combined with warm and dry fall and no sign of frost, many later-ripening red varieties were left on the vine for great phenolic maturity until early November. With lower yields and extended hang time, the solid to juice ratio was high and yielded very structured reds and full flavored whites.