Grapes worth toasting

With the fall wine festival now underway to celebrate the grape harvest, growers report that this year’s harvest is really something to celebrate.

Although most growers are just beginning to pick their wine grapes, there’s agreement that there’s some fine fruit this year.

Long-time Kelowna grower Doug Sperling still has some pinot noir grapes to pick, but said the gewurztraminer he just picked is of outstanding quality.

“It’s probably the best fruit I’ve ever picked. There are amazing flavours and it’s clean with consistent colour,” he said.

However, his crop is down 40 per cent because of damage from a November frost last year, when he recorded temperatures of -25 C in his East Kelowna vineyard. Gewurztraminer is a cold sensitive variety, so he said he’d rather expected the crop would be down—but that probably helped with the quality.

His wine grapes are grown for Gray Monk Estate Winery.

Sperling also grows Coronation table grapes, and said even they were down, but only by about 20 per cent.

Picking began near the end of August when he said the weather was so hot some days pickers had to be sent home, while last week temperatures had dropped to just above freezing and pickers wore five layers of clothing.

Overall, through the year, however, he said the weather was perfect for growing good grapes.

Leo Gebert of St. Hubertus Estate Winery agreed, and said this yea’s crop like the remarkable 2003 crop, although he had to throw that one on the ground because smoke from nearby Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire contamination.

“There were perfect growing conditions,” he said. In fact, he said the past few years, growers and winemakers have been spoiled with good weather producing excellent grapes.

On the contrary, he said the first few years they were here, it was a challenge to get the grapes ripe enough before it got too cold.

Winemaker Howard Soon, of Sandhill Wines, said the season’s perfect weather laid the foundation for good ripeness. “I was surprised when I checked, at how ripe they are,” he said.

Now, he said, they are hoping for warm enough weather to keep the plants going until all the picking is finished.

Quantity is down only five to 10 per cent from usual, he said.

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