Wine Culture Magazine

Vintage 2022: Patience and Perseverance Pay Off

Perfectly ripe fruit harvested at Unsworth Vineyards. Photo courtesy of Unsworth Vineyards

Even if there were times when across B.C. vintners were holding their collective breath, in the end, 2022 turned out just fine. While in some areas yields were down due to prior harsh 2021 winter conditions, wineries are optimistic, if not more than a little relieved, with the final result.

In Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley, Unsworth Vineyards general manager Chris Turyk notes the coldest and wettest April on record preceded inclement weather into July. “Come September, everyone was saying we needed to have no rain and 20ºC to Thanksgiving at the very least—and ideally to Hallowe’en. And that’s (almost) exactly what we got,” says Turyk. “The weather in September and October really saved our bacon!” He adds that last year’s heat dome contributed to this year’s bumper crop, although “in the vineyards we control we dropped basically half of the fruit.” The result? Perfectly ripe fruit. But, he admits, “it was a maverick year, kind of unpredictable.”

Chardonnay grapes destined to become sparkling wine at Township 7’s Naramata vineyard. Photo courtesy of Township 7

The late budbreak was also the norm in the Okanagan Valley. Township 7 winemaker Mary McDermott says, depending on the site, the cycle was behind by two weeks to a month. However, eventually, August rewarded with warm weather and (happily) no smoke issues. “Heat in the mid-20s lasting through to the third week in October helped ripening tremendously.  But it has been an unusual “very condensed,” harvest, with everything fermenting at the same time. “We picked Cab Sauv a week and a half before Gewurz,” says MacDermott. “It’s been a strange one… but we’re happy. Acids have been maintained, sugars are average, quality is good, flavours are fine, and tannins ripened.”

The contracted harvested period made for its own challenges. “Everything came in so late,” says Spearhead Winery’s Grant Stanley. “Fermentation is just beginning and we’re probably not going to get wine away to barrel until Christmas—or at least the end of November.” Yes, says Stanley, “Autumn was as good as it ever gets. Even though Brix was barely 20 degrees at the beginning of October, when everything came in we were right where we needed to be (23 to 24 degrees) with healthy acidity across the board in all varietals—really good stuff!” While estate yields were just 40% of usual (anticipated due to the previous ”horrible winter”) other plantings were unaffected. Stanley cautions there won’t be any 2022 rosé or white pinot this year, but “overall we’re really excited. It looks really good.”

Sorting bunches at Stag’s Hollow. SK Photography photo

It was a similar situation in Okanagan Falls, says Stag’s Hollow General Manager Erin Korpisto. “We were running about three weeks behind through the summer but, thankfully, Mother Nature was very cooperative this year through September and October, allowing the fruit to to ripen really well.” Following three years of short crops, thanks to “great weather in September and October,” tonnages averaged about 25% to 30% over projections. “But we’re also getting the quality as well. The flavours are are all bang-on,” she adds. “There were definitely challenges, points of being worried through the season. However, September usually makes or breaks a harvest. And that held true in a positive sense this year.”

Harsh winter conditions in Kamloops (lows of minus 29ºC) led to some worrying vineyard issues and lower yields, with the late start resulting in “a challenging growing season,” says Harpers Trail winemaker Sebastien Hotte. But in the end, unusual, “quite beautiful, very consistent” fall weather “made organic farming easier.” Hotte says phenolic ripeness was attained, with bright acidity and lower alcohols. And he expects “that extended time on the vines will make for some beautiful wines. It was a hard yet beautiful growing season, especially towards the middle and end.”

A better than expected crop was harvested at Baillie Grohman in the Kootenays. Photography by Larissa photo

The slow start extended to the Kootenays, says Baillie Grohman co-owner Myran Hagenfeldt. But a fall warm stretch meant going into harvest “everything was looking really good, over and above expectations. We started mid-October—late for us—picking for sparkling on October 6th, and then everything else kicked off a week and a half later.” Plus smoke haze from a fire in nearby Idaho cleared and the frost held off. “I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been. Overall it looks good.  And the crop’s actually coming in pretty heavy, too, which is really nice to see!”

Climate change continues to throw curve balls, good and bad, meaning that every vintage brings a new set of unpredictable challenges and opportunities. Over the last few years B.C. winemakers have learned to take everything in stride, gaining more experience in handing the ‘new normal’ that—if anything—maybe does require a thicker skin.

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