Over the last few months I had several opportunities to talk to winemakers about expectations for the 2015 Vintage. Here are a few thoughts on the challenges and their plans for the new vintage.
Charlie & Jesce Baessler / Corcelettes. The 2015 vintage was an absolute beauty with no challenges that I can recall except for a tiny little hail storm that passed through here last June – it claimed about 10% of our crop. We expect to yield 1100 cases. We will be releasing 5 new wines this year: a 2015 Pinot Noir, a 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve, a sparkling wine called Santé and a Merlot. In 2017 we expect to release a single varietal Petit Verdot- possibly to wine club members only as there is a scant 45 cases.
Andy Gebert / St Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery Ltd. Love the 2015 vintage, it was text book for growing cold climate grapes. nice early start, good fruit set, linear temperature and solid heat units during the summer months, ended all with a perfect fall, warm days cool nights, it even rained when we turned on irrigation. The 2015 vintage shows very well in barrel, especially the Pinot Noir and Gamay Noirs complex flavors and bright fruit, alcohol perhaps a bit on the high side but well integrated.
David Paterson/ Tantalus. 2015 was a hot summer but the mitigating factor for the colder weather grapes such as Riesling was that the vines “shutdown” when the temperature is over 35C. This together with early harvesting meant they were able to maintain the freshness of the fruit and manage the alcohol level in the wines but produce a bolder wine with more fruit extraction. The vintage should be more like 2010 than 2013. The warmer than average temperatures also meant a higher fruit crop so the production should increase to 9500 cases including 400 cases of Old Vine Riesling, 3000 cases Riesling and 2000 cases Pinot Noir.
Sheri Paynter /Off the Grid Organic Winery. 2015 provided us with a number of challenges and opportunities! The longer growing season and warm summer, was challenging as we had to speed up our pick by about three weeks. We did end up with some really interesting fruity flavors this season that we are excited about that! Our 2015 Chardonnay has the most amazing tropical fruity nose; the pineapple is so prominent that we decided to make an on-oaked version. The flavor and smells is exactly what I think of when I think Okanangan Patio.
Rob Westbury / Nagging Doubt. The biggest challenge, especially with vineyards south of Summerland, is that the growing degree days and the heat is going up every year. You can easily be in a situation where your sugar levels rise very quickly and acid levels drop rapidly with the faster and more aggressive ripening. For example in 2013 the Merlot from Naramata way picked October 30th, in 2014, Oct 4th and in 2015 it was harvested in late September which provides a magnitude for how more quickly the vineyards are ripening. Very hot, ripe years can lead to more protein in the wine which may need to be removed with more fining. A small batch of 2014 Pinot Noir is being bottled and is April. 200 cases of 2015 Chardonnay will be bottled in April and 2014 The Pull bottling is scheduled for the end of May.
Rob Hammersley / Black Market. Summing up the challenges of the warm 2015 vintage “it was all about managing the delicate balance between sugar and acid levels in the grapes”. Black Market will release two new wine this year. Collusion is a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc/ 40% Sémillon from the 2015 vintage. The grapes for the blend come from Road 20 in Oliver on the west side of the valley. This block is ideally located for morning sun which helped to mitigate the aggressive ripening seen in the 2015 vintage. This elegant creamy white has good acid levels for food with a crisp orange blossom, caramelized citrus and grapefruit, a beautiful fragrance, medium to full body and nicely integrated oak. The 2015 Collusion will be released in May. Syrah (name not revealed yet) will be released in the fall. The 2014 Syrah has been in oak for 16 months so far and will be bottled in April. The Syrah grapes come from the Osoyoos East Bench and were cropped at about 3.5 tons per acre.
Bradley Cooper / Black Cloud. A vintage like none I’ve experienced. A long season, warm temperatures and strong varietal character in every batch of grapes. There were challenges with elevated sugars and reduced acids but nimble adaptation is our hallmark. For 2016 we’re planning a modest 10% growth in volume and expanding our winery consulting business.
Manuel Zuppiger / Arrowleaf Cellars The winery is expecting the 2015 harvest to be exceptional. Fruit was harvested several weeks earlier than usual and we expect to increase production from 14,000 cases for the ’14 vintage to 17,000 for 2015 for which we needed to add three stainless steel fermentation tanks.
Sure looks like 2015 has potential to be the best British Columbia vintage ever.