I don’t want to be a pessimist, but…


The weather this summer has been a basket press of awesome, until recently. I’ve driven my motorcycle to work from mid June straight through to the beginning of September with only one exception. In the 6 years that I’ve lived here now, I’ve had at least 3 sets of windshield wiper blades disintegrate because of neglect during the summer. Although we accept wonky weather in May and June, summer is sacred here and we like it hot and dry.

At least that’s what it said in the brochure when I was considering moving here.

The 2013 vintage so far has been a bit bizarre weather-wise. The spring lead up to an extremely short cherry crop in June. July and August seemed to go by beautifully except for a freak (or maybe it’s the new normal) hailstorm in Kelowna. There was a heart-breaking video of trees and vines at The View getting pounded with hail on Facebook. More recently a thunderstorm blew through with high winds at the leading edge that ripped up trees and sent localized hail through vineyards in the Oliver-Osoyoos area. The roof at the winery where I work temporarily became a water-feature for our guests inside as the patio became a splash pool. A local winegrower estimated a one-quarter crop loss on his vines on Facebook shortly after that storm.

20130904-094841.jpgToday’s forecast calls for more thunderstorms due to a low pressure system that will be hanging around for a couple of days.

So is this the new normal? I can never really get a straight answer from any of the wine makers or growers that I’ve worked with as to what is ‘normal’.

“This year’s spring is two weeks beyond what I would consider late.” – winemaker to me in May of ’08.

“This harvest is really late. Later than last year, which was a tad early compared to the year before.” – different winemaker in 2010.

You can see how pinning down ‘normal’ can be problematic.

My first vintage here, 2007, was a little on the wet side. The winery owner remarked that he was using an umbrella for the first time in a decade. 2008 had a late spring, wicked hot summer, and early fall where all the grapes came in early. Ibid for ’09. 2010 and 2011 harvests were late. 2012 was compressed and late, but warm and dry. 2013 has looked to be early although with storms like these blowing through, we might just be lucky to get a crop at all.

Is anything ever ‘on time’ in the Okanagan? What is a ‘normal’ vintage?

If I could retort to myself (it can happen), I would retort with, “Well, what is a ‘normal’ wine?”

The variances in aromas and flavours from vintage to vintage is what makes wine interesting to many wine lovers. Without these little hiccups in weather patterns, all wines would taste relatively similar vintage to vintage. If that’s what you crave, then most likely you purchase industrially produced wines (like the “Cellared in Canada” wines) for under $8 that are manufactured to taste the same year after year and probably don’t read this blog anyway.

Wine is far more interesting than that in my opinion and it’s the weather that can help make it so. Unfortunately for those that produce it (wineries, grape growers, etc), bad weather can be a make or break situation. String a few bad years in a row and the vineyard goes up for sale, or worse, auction. Let’s hope can make it through this season’s late thunderstorms and hail.

Here comes the rain again…