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.
A Guide for Red Wine Lovers
Love Shiraz? We created a video just for you.
In this video, we explore three different and distinct red wines that all have the Shiraz grape varietal in common (which, by the way, is the same as the Syrah grape varietal). These wines are all distinctive and they are all delicious.
We start by meeting Jason James, the winemaker for Black Sage Vineyard. He introduces us to the big and bold Black Sage Vineyard Shiraz. He walks us through his tasting notes for the wine, tells us what makes the wine so unique in the Okanagan, and even makes a pairing suggestion. But (spoiler alert), this wine is also great on its own.
Next up in the video, we meet the winemaker from See Ya Later Ranch Winery, David Saysomsack. He tells us about Rover which is a blend that incorporates Shiraz and a somewhat surprising second varietal. He uses a very interesting technique in fermenting Rover, which he explains in the video. Plus, he gives us some tasting notes and pairing suggestions.
Finally, we hear from Dave Carson, winemaker for SunRock Vineyards. His Shiraz is distinctive because of the unique terroir that it comes from, which Dave elaborates on further. He also offers some tasting notes and food pairing suggestions. Find out why this wine definitely deserves an invitation to your next party!
But, why choose just one? Try them all and discover why each of these three Shiraz options from the Okanagan deserves to be on the 'best of the Okanagan' list.
Ready to give these wines a try? Shop now online.
Gift Ideas for Wine-Lovers
Count yourself lucky if you've got a wine-lover on your list this holiday season. Just buy them some wine! We know it can be intimidating purchasing wine for someone who really knows their vino. Here are a few tips for buying wine for the oenophile on your holiday shopping list.
Select a Crowd-Pleaser.
What's their favourite wine? This is almost an impossible question because 1) it is likely to change often and 2) it might depend on their mood, their meal, or their company. Instead, stick with a crowd pleaser. This way, you can give it knowing it's a well-loved wine and they can serve it knowing it's a well-loved wine. Win-win. Not sure which are crowd pleasers? Visit the Great Estates Wine Experience Centre before the holidays, ask the winery associate to give you the low-down. The Centre stocks favoured wines from all of our Okanagan wineries so you're sure to find exactly what you're looking for. Did you know we have over 7 rosés to choose from and a wide selection of winery-exclusive wines? And, as a bonus - you get to go to the tasting bar and discover for yourself why these are so popular!
No time for that? Take advantage of Great Estates Okanagan's Gift Guide and online shopping. And, if you're buying for more than one wine-lover (and you want to get your shopping done all at once) email us to place a special order and we'll take care of all of the shipping for you.
Give them an Award-winner.
While everyone has their personal taste preference, the judges at wine competitions have honed theirs for years. When they get together and collectively agree that a wine is the best - it’s a pretty sure bet your loved one will agree. Or, at the very least be interested in trying it.
Plus, buying an award-winning wine as a gift sends a clear message that you think they deserve the best. Select the Platinum, Double-Gold, or Gold winners from any wine competition to send this message.
Find Something Unique.
Every oenophile (or budding oenophile) loves to try wine. Experiencing a variety of different wines is the only way for them to develop their palate and increase their understanding of wine. So, give them a bottle that will expand their wine knowledge.
For example, Tempranillo is not a very common variety in the Okanagan so giving them a bottle of the Inniskillin Okanagan Discovery Series Tempranillo or Sparkling Tempranillo would be an exciting option. The Steller’s Jay Sparkling Shiraz is another unique wine that might fit the bill. There aren’t a lot of sparkling red wines that are produced in Canada. This is a style of wine more common in Australia, so giving them a bottle of this wine is like giving them an international experience.
Make it Special.
Some of the best gifts are the ones that we know the recipient wouldn’t buy for themselves. This is why icewine is such a common wine gift. Icewines tend to be a little more expensive and they are often enjoyed as a special treat.
Icewines aren’t the only wines that fit this bill. A fortified wine, like Black Sage Vineyard Pipe, is another great option. This dessert-style, red wine is generally served after dinner and savoured over conversation.
Of course, there’s a bottle of bubbles. While we think any occasion is an occasion for sparkling wine, a gifted bottle certainly still holds that cachet of celebrations to come.
Give them a Wine-tasting Experience Instead.
If the thought of buying a wine still feels overwhelming, then give your loved one the opportunity to try a variety. All of our wineries offer elevated wine tasting experiences. These often include food pairings and an opportunity to taste winery exclusive wines. And, there’s always an education component which your oenophile is sure to love. For example, learning how to pair chocolate with wine, how sparkling wine is made, or how winemakers blend wine.
There are also amazing wine and food events throughout the year at our wineries. One of our most popular is Chef Meets BC Grape. This event features wineries from all over the Okanagan as well as chefs from across BC. The food, wine, and atmosphere are spectacular. The event is held in the vineyard at See Ya Later Ranch in June and tickets are already available (at an early bird price until January 15, 2019).
Gifts of experiences are often cherished because they generate such great memories. Why not make the experience extra special and include yourself in the gift? We bet time with you is gift enough. You can book an experience at any of our wineries or on our website. Gift certificates for experiences can also be picked up at the winery or online.
The Gift of Knowledge.
When people first get into wine, they learn about how to sniff and sip to determine if they like a wine or not. They might learn a little bit of wine vocabulary so they can describe how a wine smells or tastes. For a lot of people, this is enough.
If someone is really keen to understand wine and the winemaking process, they take it a step further by registering for the WSET. The WSET is actually the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. They’ve created three levels of awards or levels that people can take to improve their understanding of wine.
Many people who work in the wine industry have this designation. In the Okanagan, anyone keen to get their training can check out Wine Plus+ Wine School’s upcoming dates. Wine Master, Rhys Pender will certainly help your wine-enthusiast become a full-fledged oenophile.
Hopefully, these tips help take the intimidation out of buying wine for an oenophile. But, if you’re still uncertain, you can always buy them wine accessories or novelties. Our winery stores all carry a variety of fun decorative items (for example, See Ya Later Ranch has a large selection of tongue-in-cheek, wine-themed signs and pillows), cookbooks, wine glasses, bottle openers, and a myriad of other vino-centric items. Why not make your shopping a little more fun? Stop by our wineries, enjoy a wine tasting, and browse the shop.
Test Your Knowledge with this Quiz
Ask someone to name a Canadian drink they’re likely to say beer but did you know that wine has a deeper history here?
The first record of beer being made in Canada is from 1646 when Jesuit Brother Ambroise started to brew beer in what was then ‘New France’.
However, the Vikings were making wine more than six centuries earlier in the area now known as the UNESCO World Heritage Site L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. So taken by the wild vines they found when they arrived from Iceland, they actually called their community Vinland.
Now that we’ve gotten the trivia train started, let’s see how well you know your Canadian (and BC) wine.
Canadian Wine Quiz
1. Which Canadian celebrity does not own a winery (or parts of a winery)?
- Mike Weir
- Shania Twain
- Dan Aykroyd
- Wayne Gretzky
2. Which winery was the first Aboriginal-owned in North America
- Gondwana Wines
- Totem Vineyards
- Nk’Mip Cellars
- Indigenous World Winery
3. What year was the first Canadian winery established (besides the Vikings)?
4. There are 28.4 billion litres of wine produced around the world. What percentage does Canada contribute to that number?
5. Which country is not among the top importers of Canadian wine?
- United States of America
6. True or false, Canada is the second largest consistent producer of Icewine in the world.
7. What type of wine is the most popular among Canadians?
8. How many people are estimated to visit BC wineries each year?
9. In 2006, for the first time ever, a Canadian winery won the coveted Shiraz/Syrah of the Year Award at the prestigious Spirit Competition in London. Which one was it?
- Cave Spring Winery
- Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery
- Sumac Ridge Estate Winery
- Pillitteri Estate Winery
10. What does VQA stand for?
- Vintners Quality Assurance
- Vintners Quality Alliance
- Vintners Quality Award
- Voluntary Quality Assessment
- Viniferas Qualis Acclamatus
Scroll down for the answers...
1. b) Shania Twain does not own a winery.
2. c) Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos, BC was the first Aboriginal-owned winery. They opened their doors in 2002.
3. a) 1811. While there were people growing grapes and attempting wine before this, Johann Schiller made and sold wine in Ontario in 1811 and is widely considered the father of Canadian wine. In the west, Father Charles Pandosy made wine from grapes he planted at the Oblate Mission in Kelowna around 1859. However, the first winery license was issued in 1975 to Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser of Inniskillin.
4. d) .3% Canada produces about 85.2 million litres of the global 28.4 billion litres of wine.
5. a) Japan is not a top importer of Canadian wine. In 2016, the top 5 countries were China, USA, Taiwan, South Korea and the UK.
6. b) False. Canada is the top producer of icewine in the world.
7. a) Red. According to Statistics Canada, 53.4% of all wine sales in 2016/2017 were red wine. White wine was the next most popular with 32.3%, followed by sparkling wine at 5.6% and Rosé and other styles of wine round things out.
8. c) 1,000,000 people visit BC wineries each year.
9. b) Jackson-Triggs. The Okanagan Estate Grand Reserve Shiraz was the first North American wine to ever win the prestigious award.
10. VQA stands for b) Vintners Quality Alliance. It’s a regulatory and appellation system which guarantees the high quality and authenticity of origin for Canadian wines. BC VQA indicates it has met these requirements in British Columbia.
How did you do? Let us know on our Facebook page! Now that you know the answers, challenge your friends - over a glass of Canadian wine, of course.
Want to Learn More?
Here are the sources we gathered our information from.
Matching Your Dad's Style to a Type of Wine
Looking for a last minute Father's Day gift? We've got you covered. Here's your guide to finding the perfect Father's Day wine gift - depending on the kind of Dad he is.
If your dad lights up inside every time he lights up the barbecue then turn to a red wine. If his go to is a big, juicy steak or a Flintstone-sized rack of ribs then you'll want to reach for one of the Okanagan's sumptuous Shiraz options. These will pair beautifully with pretty much any red meat he wants to throw on the BBQ. He'll be in grill-master heaven.
Nothing says classic vino like Chardonnay. But, guess what? Chardonnay is no longer old-school. It's one of the hippest new choices in wine now that it's overcome the bad rap it got back in the 90's. But, you don't need to tell Dad that - to him, a bottle of the Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay or the Inniskillin Dark Horse Vineyard Chardonnay will simply represent a trusty bottle of white that he can enjoy with dinner or watching TV. And, if you happen to be joining him - you can enjoy it too. Not sure which one he'll like - check out this virtual tasting to help you decide.
If your Dad is the thinking type, then give him the Steller's Jay Mountain Jay Brut. This wine has two great stories for your dad to nerd-out on. The first is the way they riddle the sparkling wine in the traditional Champagne style. This involves some pretty interesting science as the wine goes through the 'en tirage', 'riddling' and 'disgorging' stages.
The second nerdy fact about this wine is that the BC Wine Authority required Steller's Jay to change the name of the wine. If your dad loves a good semantics conversation, then he'll want to check out the reason for the name change.
If health is top of mind for you paternal leader, slip him a nice bottle of Pinot Noir this Father's Day. Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that some studies found may help heart health when consumed in moderation. And that's the other reason that this is the perfect wine for your health-conscious Dad - it's a real sipper. A wine like the Nk'Mip Cellars Winemaker's Pinot Noir is perfect to pour into a big, round glass and enjoy slowly over the course of a relaxing evening.
If your dad loves to fish, and more importantly, loves to eat what he catches then a bottle of Jimmy My Pal from See Ya Later Ranch is going to make him very happy. It's a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris that is light and fresh. Plus, it's got hints of citrus and lychee that are sure to make his catch of the day sing.
If your father wears his heart on his sleeve then you've got to go with a Rosé - try the Nk'Mip Cellars Winemaker's Rosé or for a romantic morning of breakfast in bed, he might like the Steller’s Jay Sparkling Shiraz for a unique take on the classic mimosa. Either way, he'll be feeling the love on Father's Day.
If your father loves to get out and have adventures, then don't give him a bottle of wine - give him a wine experience! Our wineries have a variety of great food and wine experiences like Bubbles and Bites at Steller's Jay, lunch on the patio at See Ya Later Ranch, The Land to Legacy Tour at Nk'Mip Cellars (perfect if your dad is into history and culture) and the food and wine pairing experiences at Inniskillin. You can reserve an experience for the two of you to enjoy together or give him a gift certificate that he can take advantage of another time.
Whether it’s your Dad or the Dad in your life, no matter what kind of wine-style he has, we hope he has a Happy Father's Day.
How the New Chardonnay is Converting the ABC Club
If you were a wine drinker in the 90’s, you probably think you know what Chardonnay is all about. Afterall, it was the unofficial white wine of the decade. If you ordered a glass of white at a restaurant, it was inevitably a Chardonnay. It was the bottle you brought to every dinner party because everyone (who knew anything about wine) loved Chardonnay. Showing up with a Chardonnay earned you lots of Brownie points.
And then the tides turned.
Chardonnay became the victim of its own immense popularity. A lot of wineries started producing Chardonnay and playing up the attributes that people loved the most - sweetness and oakiness - until it became a caricature of itself.
In an effort to be soft and sweet, the winemakers were doing 100% malolactic fermentation. The wine became cloying and lacked acidity. These mass producers also used wood chips to capture that oak flavour but they overdid it so that oak became the dominant flavour. There was no sense of balance in these ‘Big Chards’ - all the nuance was gone.
First, the wine aficionados noticed and the public wasn’t far behind. Noses were turning up at dinner parties and restaurants. Wine lovers were joining the ABC club, as in, “Pour me Anything But Chardonnay!” You wouldn’t dream of bringing a Chardonnay to a dinner party lest people think you were either trying to pawn the bottle off on those who you presumed didn’t know better or, gasp, you didn’t know better.
Great winemakers were dismayed. The chardonnay grape had so much potential and their beautifully balanced wines were being snubbed; caught up in the maligning of Chardonnay.
Big wine producers moved on, leaving Chardonnay with a bad reputation.
Flash forward a couple of decades and wine aficionados are encouraging wine lovers to give Chardonnay another shot. Winemakers have spent the last decade creating magic with the varietal. Take, for example, the Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay. It won a gold medal the Chardonnay du Monde competition in France.
World-class Chardonnays are being produced in the Okanagan and changing people’s minds.
Nk’Mip Senior Winemaker, Randy Picton is happy to see that people are rediscovering Chardonnay and finally letting go of their bias against it. “The difference now is that the use of oak is more restrained,” he explains, “The fruit comes through more and the structure is more pleasing.”
Beyond that, designing an award-winning Chardonnay demands attention to the subtleties of the variety and terroir, as Randy explains, “It requires an appropriate amount of oak for the type of fruit that you have. Retaining a little bit of acidity in the wine so you have some nice length in the wine; through the structure of the wine. I think also, it’s nice if you can get some strength to the mid-palate too which you can from some nice French oak. It’s having everything in balance and making sure that the wine has some character from the vineyard; from the place that the grapes were grown.”
That sense of place is something that shows up in all of the Great Estates Okanagan Chardonnays. As a result, our tasting room staff have been witnessing these wines convert ABC club members back to Chardonnay-lovers, one by one.
So, don’t be surprised if you start to see more Chardonnays showing up at dinner parties and picnics this year. And, definitely don’t be shy about trying them yourself. You might just discover that it’s a perfect pairing for a night in with a good movie and a bowl of popcorn.