What Happened in the Vineyard this Winter?
Wintertime is a Busy Time in the Vineyards
A lot of people think that there isn't much to do while the vines sleep under their blanket of winter snow. This couldn't be further from the truth. Winter is an important and busy time in the vineyard. It's the time when have to get the vines in perfect condition to produce beautiful fruit. To get a better sense of what that entails and to find out what else is going on in the vineyard right now, we connected with Troy Osborne, Director of Viticulture, Great Estates Okanagan.
What's happening in the vineyards right now?
Pruning is the start of our season and is by far our most time-consuming task. We started on January 8th and two months later, 70% of the vines are pruned and canes are ready to be tied to the fruiting wire.
Tying will start once pruning is complete and the sap starts to flow. Sap flow makes the canes more pliable and easier to manipulate for tying minimizing damage to the fruiting wood. Tying usually begins mid-March and takes about 30 days.
We are also making final preparations for our aggressive new planting plan.
Our new blocks at See Ya Later Ranch will include new clones of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (blocks are located on the lowest bench of the vineyard, they are the first vines you will see on the left side as our you head up from Okanagan Falls to visit the wine shop).
We are also planting a mix of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc that will add just under 30 additional acres on the Wolf Creek site and 12 acres of Riesling on the Whitetail vineyard location.
The largest planting in one area will be on our Black Sage Vineyard site. Just under 50 acres of late-ripening reds will be planted on this premiere red vineyard location. Varieties include multiple clones of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel.
The first grapes for all of the vines planted in 2019 will be harvest in 2021, reaching full production in 2023.
How was the Icewine harvest this year?
We were very fortunate to have picked the majority of our Icewine grapes in early December when the fruit was still fresh and vibrant and free from rot and desiccation. Our Whitetail vineyard is an ideal location for Icewine as temperatures on this higher elevation vineyard average 4 degrees colder than the valley bottom. This gives us a huge advantage when valley temperatures are just on the edge of adequate for Icewine harvest.
It's been a strange winter, what could the mild then cold winter mean for the vines?
Late fall and early winter conditions are the most important for vine dormancy and fortunately, the conditions were very good at the end of 2018 allowing for very “winter hearty” vines.
Buds are hearty to below -25C and these killing temperatures have not been reached to date and it is highly unlikely as we move into more spring-like conditions in the coming weeks.
As spring approaches, what will you be doing or looking out for in the vineyards?
We are just finishing our bud assessments, providing verification that fruiting buds are healthy and have made it through the winter in good shape allowing crop targets to be met. It all looks great.
Other than completing pruning, tying, and planting preparations, we are busy training our team members on some of the more technical tasks within the vineyard. In particular, our vineyard monitors and our GIS (Geographic Information System). Our GIS gives us a real-time view of what's happening across all of our locations. This allows for the best decisions to be made. This critical information ensures we maintain the delicate balance between obtaining the highest standards of fruit quality and vineyard sustainability within.
Thanks for sharing that with us, Troy!
Now that you know how important the winter season is for the vineyards' health, we hope you'll drop by soon and visit. You might be surprised by how beautiful our winter vineyards are.