BC Winemaker’s Thoughts on Vintage 2016

BC winemakers are expecting a monumental 2016 vintage for both red and white BC wines with superb quality and increased quantity over 2015.  The early spring, temperate summer and extended hang times will make for exceptional cool climate wines.

Special thanks to all the winemakers who found the time to provide input for this post. Now for the details:

Bradley Cooper – Black Cloud / Serendipity

bradley-cooperThe 2016 harvest was a Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde and long. Maybe the longest I’ve worked.  In fact, I took the last of Serendipity’s  grapes out of the field on Thursday, November 3. It’s Syrah and Cabernet Franc, both of which are quality challenged. I’ve harvested later, but never after the first pick being so early (August 27).

The early spring and temperate summer will prove to be extremely beneficial to white varieties and early reds like Gamay and Pinot Noir.  The collapse of the weather patterns in mid-September provided plenty of challenges for other reds.  Call it hang time if you like, or call it rinse, wait, rinse, repeat. Any quick check of the weather records will tell you it was frequently wet. Around mid-October, it became a question of getting just a few hours to get the crop in for many.
That all sounds a bit gloomy but, overall, it was a good year.  A little deft footwork in the cellar will adjust things into positive territory, but that’s what technological advances are for.

Dick Lancaster  – Black Widow

bl-wid-crush-2015-dick-lChallenges of the crush – 2016 –  rain, rain, more rain.  We were expecting another record-setting early year by late Spring, then cooler summer weather hit and slowed things down.  Veraison was comparatively early, but not a record this year.  We started harvesting our white grapes in the 2nd week of September with excellent quality – good ripeness, lower acidity, and clean.  However, our later ripening reds (Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) were affected by the cool damp weather in September and pushed the harvest back well into October. We finished the season with our Cab. at the very end of October.  Quality is very good, with sugars a bit lower than either 2014 or 2015.  Overall tonnage is up – a bumper crop for many growers.

Our crush was about 50 tons,  so we expect our lineup of new releases for 2017 to mirror that of 2016.  We are considering a new white blend and may offer this in a Frizzante style.  Our 2015 reds will be released next year – we expect them to sell out quickly given the spectacular harvest in 2015 and the awards we received last year for our similar 2014 reds.

Michal Mosny –  Lunessence

lunessence-michal-crushThe 2016 vintage will be even better than 2015. The season started early but slowed down in the summer and that allowed for an ideal ripening of all compounds in the berries. The cooler end of August and September developed and protected very important aromatics in the berries. We could pick all grapes at cooler temperatures with no rush as was the case in 2015. Also, we could pick all varieties after a full moon, when the vineyard has a lot of energy presented in the grapes.
Very interesting thing I have noticed is Petit Verdot from the Oliver Vineyard – totally ripen, which is very unusual. We use it only for blending, but this year we will have one barrel as a single varietal.
This year we started double sorting of all grapes – clusters before destemming and berries after destemming and before crushing. The fermenting wine already shows incredible purity and very high and clean aromatics.

Kathy Malone – Hillside

Here’s a shot of the crush t-shirt I made for our crew this year.  A nod to our prime minister, it is also the response I have to any question about any of the wines from this vintage.

hillside-crushBy late August we knew that the 2016 growing year was unlike any we’ve seen.  While the May growing-degree days were off the chart, ensuring super-long hang-times by end of season (so we thought) the rest of the season was ordinary at best, with the final tally showing exactly average growing degree days.

It was the earliest start on record, and due to rain in late October/early November, one of the latest finishes. Because we didn’t have intense summer heat, the sugars didn’t soar and the alcohol is in balance. It has been a great learning experience, though time will tell what it is we actually learned.

What I do know from tasting the wines:  aromatic whites are beautiful, bright, clean and well—aromatic.  The Pinot Gris on the Naramata Bench was low-yielding this year—likely due to rain during bloom, so the wine has great mouth-feel and intensity.

We have only pressed 3 red tanks to date—Pinot Noir and Merlot, but they are tasting great with nice black fruit, and super deep colour.

Jeff Martin – LAFRENZ

photoIn my 22 years in Canada, no two vintages are exactly the same, every year you are fine tuning cropping levels, irrigation to control foliar growth or berry sizing and vineyard canopies or fruit exposure to achieve the concentration and flavour profile we want off that varietal and that particular vineyard block.

The 2016 growing season started in earnest at the beginning of April, a full month ahead of normal. This year had all the potential to surpass 2015 in accumulated growing degree days (one of the two warmest of the past 20 years).

June received 80 mm of rainfall, double the historical average. We are a desert climate and compared to many viticultural areas around the world, this really wasn’t a concern.  As a winegrower you only get 3 things for free, the sunshine or UV, fresh air and rainwater so it’s essential these are harnessed in good vineyard management. For the first time ever I had vineyards that received only a minor irrigation, right at the very end of the season.

All the grape growing ” windows ” maintained this full month ahead until the second half of August when temperatures moderated. Ripening was pretty much stagnant for 2 weeks, I wasn’t too concerned, as a delayed ripening allows flavour accumulation to parallel sugar accumulation. This extended hang time is essential in our cool climate wine styles. With moderate temperatures continuing into September plus intermittent rain showers we started harvest 3 weeks early but finished only 10 days ahead of normal. It was a long drawn out vintage but with a lack of disease, it was only a matter of waiting for the desired ripeness levels of each variety.

2016 was an excellent vintage , definitely in the top 4 growing seasons of the past 20 when comparing cold hard numbers. The white wines all achieved great vibrancy and freshness without the excessive alcohols of a hot year.  Pinot Noir is one of the first to lose its delicate red fruits in a hot year. Our bigger reds were all harvested just after mid-October at 25 Brix or greater with excellent phenolic ripeness and dark dense concentration expected of these styles.

From purely a wine quality perspective across all styles, 2016 was outstanding and potentially the best of the past two decades.

Richard Roskell – Marichel

marichel1The vintage wasn’t typical but it has turned out to be excellent. A hot and early spring got the vines started in good time. Then the summer weather moderated and combined with a cooler September, we got slow sugar rise and great hang time with good acid balance. The early start to the season also gave me the option to carry a bigger crop this year. So we’re seeing great quality with high quantity.  Ideal conditions. Some vineyards reported high levels of powdery mildew but we didn’t see any.

Rob Hammersley – Black Market

bm-lo-res-2-2The 2016 vintage has been a spectacular one!  A few challenges experienced by growers of our later-ripening Bordeaux varietals, but all our grapes came into the winery extremely clean and healthy with outstanding flavours and a nice balance between sugars and acids. Demand for our wines continues to grow, so our total production for the 2016 vintage will be in the neighbourhood of 700 cases.  We’ve added a 5th wine — a Pinot Noir Rosé — to our line-up this year that we’re really excited about, and it will be released early in the spring.

Ann Sperling

Skin Fermented white wine during fermentation
Skin Fermented white wine during fermentation

2016 at Sperling marked a year when everything worked perfectly and as planned. The season started early and unusually warm but July, August and September were cool which meant that ripening happened slowly developing excellent varietal character while retaining fresh acidity. We’re finding intensely expressive aromatics in most varieties, particularly Old Vines Riesling and Pinot Noir Rose. And with the recognition (Gold medal at Canadian wine awards) and success of Amber Pinot Gris — a skin and whole cluster fermented white wine made without any additives at all, we are making this wine again in 2016 and experimenting with another white variety in this style. 2016 also marks our first year in a formal organic certification process.


David Paterson – Tantalus

img_8494In hindsight, last year was just a little too hot. Great wines have come out of the 2015 vintage but overall I think that 2016 is a better. We started with a very early and warm spring which got the vineyards off to a great start. Unlike 2013-2015 vintages, July and August were not blisteringly hot months and the grapes had more time to slowly mature, giving great depth of flavour and concentration without accumulating a huge amount of sugar. In short the grapes this year have flavour and intensity at lower that average potential acid level. The long Indian summer without intense heat allowed the grapes to stay on the vine longer and accumulate better phenolic ripeness than we have seen in the previous hotter vintages. The wines from the 2016 vintage have depth and complexity, intense flavours and colour without harsh tannin and high acid. A very good to exceptional vintage overall.

Sheri Paynter – Off the Grid

off-the-gridOur biggest challenges overall  this season was the rain in July, and the effects it had on our growing season and vineyard management.  We also did a trial run with some mini sheep in our vineyards to help with the weeding, that worked really well, so I am looking forward to expanding our flock this spring.
This season I am most excited about our Zweigelt.  The Zweigelt has some amazing black cherry aromas, the best I have tasted.  Coming into our second year we are looking forward to adding Riesling, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt to our portfolio this season.

Will Harman – Deep Roots

2016 was a “hurry up and wait” vintage as we had a very hot spring and summer but a cool, wet fall. This gave us a chance to hang the reds a little longer gaining intense flavours while getting the whites off early with a great balance of acidity, sugars and phenolics. Our production grew another 35% to 3,200 cases while adding a Viognier to our list making 12 wines. We’re all very excited for the 2017 release!

Jay Drysdale – Bella

20150927_141228The 2016 vintage was similar to playing a bad hand at poker and winning.  I think there were a variety of challenges this year but if crops were kept consistently  low and you were on top of vineyard management you can walk away from this vintage happy.
Very early bud break, above-normal temperatures in April and May, then it cooled off and gave us rain for late spring.  The heat came back in the summer but it brought humidity with it.  This meant we battled powdery mildew, and later in the season bunch rot and botrytis.
Our first grapes came on Aug 18th from Oliver and continued for three weeks following.  We only grow and source Chardonnay and Gamay for sparkling wines.  We source from eight different vineyards from the Similkameen to Kamloops with the largest amount coming from Naramata.
Chardonnay had good consistent fruit set and normal to above average size in berries. Gamay had more irregular fruit set and overall a smaller berry size.
The first week of September saw the heat turn off and ripening slowed substantially.  This helped slow the pace and keep the wild ferments more consistent. Overall this year will give us elegant wines with beautiful acidity for longevity and flavours that are not as intense.
Please link to Part 2 of this article here.

Other sources of information for the BC Harvest 2016 :


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