As BC is large with a cooler coastal climate and a hotter, drier interior, our yearly vintages can cover a range from marginal to exceptional. Luckily we have been closer to the exceptional end of the vintage spectrum these last years. How was the 2018 vintage? I attended a media preview of the 2018 vintage and had 4 winemakers from the interior and the coast to talk about it.
- Bailey Williamson, Winemaker – Blue Grouse Estate Winery (Coastal – Vancouver Island)
- Grant Stanley, Winemaker – SpearHead Winery (Interior – Kelowna)
- Senka Tennant, Winemaker – Terravista Vineyards (Interior – Naramata Bench)
- Howard Soon, Winemaker – Vanessa Vineyard (Interior – Cawston)
Along with their remarks about the vintage, they brought along samples of their 2018 white and/or rose wines for us to try.
The 2018 Vintage by Region
Overall in the Okanagan Valley, the growing season was cooler on average. The 2017-18 winter was mild but had lots of snow which lead to flooding in the Spring. And little need for vineyard managers to irrigate the vines. The canopy had vigorous growth. July was the only very hot month, but with the pronounced canopy, there was little dehydration from the vines. August was cooler with some of the coolness coming from a two-three week period of wildfire smoke which blocked photosynthesis and delayed veraison, and September was the coolest on record. October was cool but sunny. This lead to a long growing season and allowed for normal picking of the white grapes and later picking for the red grapes. The wines overall show restrained alcohol, crisp acidity, ripe tannins for the reds, and intense fruit flavour.
The Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island were on the average for Growing Degree Days, different from the Interior. On Vancouver Island in September, there were 10 very cool days and rain, which in some cases made the vines think that it was winter so they went into senescence, which means the grapes no longer ripen and would start to desiccate. Not all grapes did this. It depended on the health of the vines, with the more robust greener vines weathering through those days, which were then followed by 6 weeks of sun that allowed further ripening. The remainder of the Fall had ideal growing conditions. The quantity of grapes is down from previous vintages, but the quality of grapes was high.
In the Similkameen Valley the weather conditions were very similar to the South Okanagan. It was slightly cooler than recent vintages. There was some flooding in the Spring and then fires and smoke later in the summer. The smoke again delayed veraison and harvest, resulting in a long, temperate growing season lasting into October and early November, producing wines with moderate alcohol levels and crisp acidity.
Samples of 2018 Wines from the Winemakers
Each winemaker provided 2 wines for us to try. Did the restrained alcohol, crisp acidity and intense fruit flavour show in these bottles? Let’s find out.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard Rosé 2018 – Made from the Gamay Noir grape. The grapes were fermented on their skins for 18 hours before pressing to extract colour and complexity, then settled for 2 days before the juice was racked off heavy lees. A cool fermentation with no malolactic secondary fermentation. This wine has a pale orange-pink colour. Nice aromas of orange, red fruits and strawberries; very aromatic. Dry with high acidity and a mineral, textured mouthfeel. Wild strawberries and bramble leaf on the palate, finishing with tart red fruit flavours.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard Pinot Gris 2018 – Grapes from 2 different vineyards, one north and the other in the south Cowichan valley were harvest to provide different flavour profiles for this wine. The grapes were fermented separately in stainless steel then blended after 3 months of lees contact. No malolactic fermentation. A lighter bright lemon colour in the glass. Light intensity nose showing pear and honey. The wine is dry with some roundness and a thicker mouthfeel. Higher acidity. Honey/marmalade, yellow fruits, pears, and light pepperiness on the palate. Quality.
Vanessa Vineyard Rosé 2018 – The grapes were whole cluster pressed, chilled and fermented slowly in stainless steel tans. The wine was made at cool temperatures to fully enhance the fruit flavours. The wine has a light peach skin colour. Light bramble leaf, toast/flint, and strawberry aromas. Stony mineral, tart red fruits, and strawberry flavours. The wine is dry, with a medium body and medium length. The wine is tight as-is and will evolve over time.
Vanessa Vineyard Viognier 2018 – This wine was cool fermented with selected yeasts over a long period to bring out the fruity, floral aromatics and a round mouthfeel. The wine has a deeper bright lemon colour in the glass. Medium intensity nose, showing honey, honeysuckle and peach aromas. Medium plus body with a thicker mouthfeel. Medium acidity. White peach, honey, and hints of orange and pineapple. Some minerality mid-palate. Understated elegance. –
SpearHead Winery White Pinot Noir 2018 – This wine used gentle whole bunch pressing with minimal skin contact. The naturally cold settled juice was fermented in small stainless steel tanks. The wine has a bright pale lemon colour with a tinge of green. A very fruity nose; grapefruit, honey, and light peach aromas. The wine is dry, with higher acidity, but not biting. Medium thick mouthfeel. The wine has an array of flavours covering yellow grapefruit, green fruit, and lime skin. Some pepperiness and minerality. Tart fruit finish. With air, the wine takes on a peach flavour. Exciting to taste.
SpearHead Winery Pinot Gris 2018 – These grapes were whole bunch pressed, with 10% of the juice fermented in 2-year-old French oak barrels while the rest was cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. This wine has a pale lemon colour. A very light/closed nose at the moment, but it did have a light ripe pear aroma. Medium minus sweet (6 g/l of residual sugar), light body with medium acidity. Medium intensity peach and pear flavours, a hint of marmalade and minerality.
Terravista Vineyards Fandango 2018 – This wine is a blend of Albarino and Verdejo grapes from their estate vineyard. The wine is a 63% Albarino and 37% Verdejo. The wine has a light lemon green colour. Light intensity, but deep peach, yellow apple and peach skin aromatics. Dryish (with 4.8 g/l of residual sugar), high acidity and medium body. Apricots and yellow apple flavours, but with air you also get lemon and lime flavours. Light salty minerality. Peppery. Long length. Lots of yellow fruit flavours in this wine. Another exciting wine from the 2018 vintage. –
Terravista Vineyards Figaro Albarino 2017 – (How did a 2017 get in here? I’m not sure. Maybe the label is 2017 but the wine inside is 2018. I will have to ask.) The Albarino for this wine comes 70% from their home vineyard, with 30% coming from another vineyard on the Black Sage Road. The wine has a medium plus intensity lemon colour with a stronger green tint than the Fandango. It has a nice light nose, with peach and bramble leaf aromatics. The wine is off-dry with a medium plus body, and biting acidity on the tongue, but not over the top acidity. Tropical fruit flavour with a peppery finish. Medium plus length.
Watch for my next article where I will give you my top BC VQA wine picks from the Bloom BC Spring VQA wine release, which coincided with this Media preview.