Canadian Wine Harvest 2014: BC, Ontario, Quebec, NS Winemakers Weigh In


Join us Friday morning on Global Television as we discuss how the Canadian wine harvest is going from coast to coast.

In the meantime, here are reports from the field: winemakers from British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia give their impressions of how the 2014 harvest is looking so far.

Tantalus WineryTantalus Vineyards

David Paterson, Winemaker, Tantalus Vineyards, British Columbia

How is the 2014 harvest going so far?
So far the 2014 harvest has been ideal. We are in the home stretch now and a couple more weeks of warm days and cool nights to finish off with will be amazing.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
The weather looks great in the forecast, so if it holds it will be a cracking good vintage.

How does it compare to last year and years before?
Quite similar to last year, though the acids are holding slightly higher, which is nice.

What grapes, if any, have you picked already? What will you be picking next week?David WineMaker at Tantalus
I have picked Pinot Noir for sparkling wine (Blanc de Noir) so far. I think that I will start Pinot Meunier for Rosé and some Chardonnay on Monday (22nd of September) which is exactly the same as last year.

Is there a particular crop that’s done well this year?
Everything looks great right now but the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay look extra special this year.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
The amount of cleaning that happens. Winemaking is 48% cleaning, 48% moving heavy things around and 4% drinking beer ;)

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
The 2013 was a great vintage, we had excellent grapes and a really dynamic team. This year is shaping up very similar with more than half of last year’s team coming back and the new additions working out really well.

What part of the harvest do you love most?
All of it, harvest is my favorite time of year.

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Quails Gate WineryQuails’ Gate Estate Winery

Nikki Callaway, Winemaker, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery

How is the 2014 harvest going so far?
2014 is going to be an excellent year.  The grapes are ripening fast, so it may be a very intense harvest with southern fruit ripening at the same time as northern fruit.  Everything may have to come in at the same time.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
Yes, as long as the weather holds.  We need at least 1 more month of sunshine, and minimal rain.

How does it compare to last year and years before?
The last 2 years have been excellent, this year looks the same, so far.  We are harvesting at the exact same time we did last year, earlier than previous years.Nikki Callaway Quails Gate

What grapes, if any, have you picked already? What will you be picking next week?
We have picked Sauvignon Blanc and Foch from our West Kelowna site.  Next week we are picking in Osoyoos and Oliver – Chardonnay, Foch, Chenin Blanc, and Syrah.

Is there a particular crop that’s done well this year?
It’s too early to say.  Everything is looking good.  The reds are ripening very evenly with intense berry fruit and not much greenness, which is a huge advantage.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
How hard, long, and physical we work.  From now till Christmas we will be enjoying long, strenuous days- with no weekends or days off.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
The 2004 vintage in the Beaujolais.  I was working at an old, established family winery that was proud to do harvest traditionally, with teams of hand pickers that were friends and family.

Everyone was housed in Gites (cottages), given 3+ meals a day, wine was flowing in the vineyards as early as 6 am to keep us warm, and live music around the fire every night.

The men in the cellar made a special harvest stew which comprised of fermenting Gamay grapes straight from the tank and sausages, pork hock, and bacon-all in a big cast-iron pot over an open fire.

After all the hard work was done for the day, we would sit and eat a delicious meal, and taste through all the fermenting vats.  It’s important to work hard during harvest, but it is also important to respect tradition and to respect the importance of creating a product that brings people so much pleasure.

What part of the harvest do you love most (other than being done)?
That it only comes once a year!  That way you look forward to it, but extremely glad when it’s done!

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Nk'Mip+-+wineryNk’Mip Cellars

Randy Picton, Winemaker, Nk’Mip Cellars

How is the 2014 harvest going so far?
So far so good – no real challenges though we are just getting our feet wet so to speak.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
Yes – we have already received a lot of heat units over the summer so sugars are generally where they need to be – just waiting on flavour and phenolic development.Randy Picton

How does it compare to last year and years before?
Similar to 2013 a little warmer than 2012.

What grapes, if any have you picked already?
We have picked our Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and some early Merlot – next week we will likely move into Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
I think the intensity of the flavours of the grapes themselves. Most people don’t get the opportunity to taste wine grapes.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
1996 – it was my first full harvest in the Okanagan and a terrible weather year. I couldn’t understand why the head winemaker seemed so on edge.

I now fully comprehend – it was October 17th and it was our first day of harvest – it was snowing and we still had 300 tonnes to process in an antiquated production facility. Yikes!

What part of the harvest do you love most?
Tasting the new wines as they run through fermentation – always exciting to see the wines develop from the beginning.

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Creekside WineryCreekside Estate Winery

Rob Power, Winemaker, Creekside Estate Winery, Ontario

How is the 2014 harvest going so far?
We haven’t really started yet. The late spring we had has pushed harvest back a week or two.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
Always optimistic. We are in a patch of great weather right now, and the weather between Labour Day and Hallowe’en dictates the quality of the vintage.

How does it compare to last year and years before?Creekside WineMaker
All Niagara vintages are different. Weather-wise it is probably most similar to 2009, but the reds are much more advanced at this point in time than they were that year.

What grapes, if any have you picked already?
Pinot Gris will be first off this year, followed closely by Sauvignon Blanc.

Is there a particular crop that’s done well this year?
Too early to say? Pinot Gris looks beautiful; Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be on a good track.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
Until you do a vintage, you have no appreciation for how much stress and brutally hard work is involved. And how intensely gratifying it is to get through that.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
They all have their moments, both highs and lows. Recently. 2012: the fruit was so ripe and everything just seemed to fall into place.

What part of the harvest do you love most?
An autumn sunrise, out in a vineyard starting a pick of ripe fruit that will make great wine. That experience just never gets old.

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Grange of Prince Edwart WineryThe Grange of Prince Edward Estate Winery

Caroline Granger, Winemaker, The Grange of Prince Edward Estate Winery

How is the 2014 harvest going so far? challenges?
Harvest began for us on September 18, picking Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for our sparkling wine we call BRUT. It is interesting that despite a somewhat cool summer we are essentially right on target relative to our usual pick dates so far.

As always, because we hand-harvest everything on the farm our challenge will be finding enough bodies to bring the crop in!

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
I am excited about the quality of this year’s fruit. I know everyone always gets excited in the warm years, but in fact it is the years like this one, notably 2009 and 2011, that produce some of the most complex wines.

Cooler summers actually bring out incredible phenolics!

How does it compare to last year and years before?Caroline Granger
I think 2014 will shape up to be a pretty typical pick, although it does look like Chardonnay will be coming off before Pinot Noir which is somewhat unusual for us.

As I mentioned, I believe this vintage is going to prove to yield fruit which is complex.

Field samples of the grapes to date have shown more complexity in the flavour profile than is often the case in the mid stages of ripening.

What grapes, if any have you picked already? What will you be picking next week?
We are in the process of picking both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine. Next week we will be picking Chardonnay and possibly Pinot Gris.

Is there a particular crop that has done well this year, ie Cabernet etc?
The Pinot Noir is looking great! It seems that Pinot Noir, of all the grapes, most enjoys a cool summer.

The last few weeks of sunshine have helped the fruit to achieve surprising levels of maturity in a short time.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
I think people would be very surprised by the slowness of it. The hand-picking and sorting mean that often even the fastest pickers can only pick between 20 and 40 kilograms an hour.

In Prince Edward County, the fruit grows low on the trellis. This is a result of two factors: the fact that we bury canes; and the need for lots of leaves to ensure the vines’ ability to capitalize on the heat units in season.

This fact renders the work more difficult than most people would suppose because we essentially are working in a crouch all day.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
That’s a hard question. The 2014 vintage is my 14th harvest since planting grapes on my father’s farm. The first harvest was pretty crazy but mostly due to the fact that the local raccoon population ate more of the Gamay grapes than I was able to harvest.

The Pinot Noir harvest of 2004 was also a lesson because that was the year I learned the Pinot Noir harvest comes just after EI eligibility and my local crew laid themselves off.

I harvested that year using child labour (my own children) and a crew that was mostly over 65, my parents and great aunt.

It took so long to pick the fruit the final must weight was 28 brix. But I think my favorite harvest to date has been 2009 and the vineyard finally seemed to come into their own and the fruit was plentiful and exciting. We picked for 45 days and the resulting wines were amazing!

What part of the harvest do you love most?
I love the camaraderie of the crews (vineyard, cellar and hospitality), the coming together of all divergent aspects of the business. It is amazing what long hours and difficult conditions that are shared do to creating a common culture.

For a little while we all understand in our bones what we are here for. The  vision becomes crystal clear.

The celebration that is harvest is fundamentally a celebration of a triumph once again over nature and is shared by our workers and visitors alike!

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Domaine PinnacleDomaine Pinnacle

Charles Crawford, Cider Maker, Domaine Pinnacle

How is the 2014 harvest going so far? Challenges?
2014 will be an excellent apple harvest.  There are a lot of apples on the trees and due to a cold summer they are the reddest we have ever seen.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish? charles_crawford
Should be no problem

How does it compare to last year and years before?
About 30% more apples than the average year.

What types of apples, if any have you picked already? What will you be picking next week?
We have not starting picking yet.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about an apple/cider harvest?
Our ice cider apples are picked until January.

How is it different from the grape harvest?
The varieties are picked at different times over a couple month period.  Some are later maturing varities.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
Picking Cortland apples at -20C in December.  It was an incredibly beautiful and sunny day and there was lots of snow.

What part of the harvest do you love most (other than being done)?
We have a very loyal group of pickers that come back every year.  It is a great group of people and rewarding.

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grandpre winery 2Domaine de Grand Pré

Jürg Stutz, Winemaker, Domaine de Grand Pré

How is the 2014 harvest going so far?
So far so good. We only picked Petite Milo so far. No challenges with the harvest, the grapes are healthy and the weather in September couldn’t have been much better.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
Looks really promising! The long term weather forecast looks very favourable with 24 and 25 degrees on the weekend.

How does it compare to last year and years before?Jurg 3
Where things stand right now, we’re ahead by about a week compared to last year, and it looks very promising to be well above average quality-wise.

On the volume-side we might be a bit lower than in other years because of some winter injury, a late-spring frost, and some storm damage in early July by Hurricane Arthur.

What grapes, if any have you picked already? What will you be picking next week?
Petite Milo is picked, next one is L’Acadie and Seyval for the Tidal Bay blend.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
We get lots of questions about the bird netting. Lots of people don’t understand what the nets are for.

They are also very suprised to hear that all our grapes are picked by hand.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
In most recent years it was 2012 because of all the weather-related problems we’ve had.

On the positive, side it was 2010 which was one of the most beautiful falls in 10 years. Great weather all year that finished with a great crop.

What part of the harvest do you love most?
I like seeing all the activity in the vineyard when the harvest crew comes in! We get up to 20 people harvesting for us and some of them are back year after year for more then 10 years now. Great bunch.

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Benjamin Bridge WineryBenjamin Bridge

Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, Head Winemaker, Benjamin Bridge

How is the 2014 harvest going so far? Challenges?
The 2014 harvest looked like it was going to be late but the weather has recently cooperated and we are now in the midst of harvest. We pick earlier than all other wineries in Nova Scotia because of Nova 7 and our sparkling wine program.

Are you optimistic about how it will finish?
We are confident that we will have a very good vintage if the weather holds.

How does it compare to last year and years before?Jean-Benoit, Head Winemaker Benjamin Bridge
Every vintage/season is different but the philosophy at Benjamin Bridge is to take what mother nature gives us and make quality wines representing those unique vintages. We want our wines to express the vineyard and individuality of each vintage/season.

What grapes, if any have you picked already? What will you be picking next week?
We have and are currently picking grapes for Nova 7. We have picked Perle, Osceola Muscat, Seyval and L’Acadie,

Next week we will still be picking for Nova 7 and plan to pick more aromatic white varietals such as the New York Muscat.

Then we will move onto our sparkling wine varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir from our estate vineyards.

What is the one thing that would surprise people about a wine harvest?
Quality is of utmost important to Benjamin Bridge. People would be surprised at the meticulous attention that we give to each bunch of grapes. We handpick in small trays, hand sort, lightly press the grapes and gently pump throughout our practice.

What was your most memorable harvest and why?
Every pick has its own personality. We have been very fortunate with all of our vintages and have produced outstanding nationally and internationally acclaimed wines. We have just released our 2008 Méthode Classique Brut and Brut Reserve. The 2008 Brut Reserve is very special because our sparkling wine consultant, the late Raphael Brisbois (recommended to Benjamin Bridge in 2001 as the top champagne consultant in the world) gave it his only perfect score – A+.

What part of the harvest do you love most (other than being done)?
We all enjoy the rush of the harvest and tasting the juices fresh from the press. We all then imagine what the wines will taste like and in particular how the 2014 Nova 7 will display what mother nature has provided us.

 

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