In the late Fall, I interviewed a few BC winemakers about their 2022 harvest, but the wines were still fermenting in tanks, barrels or other vessels. The winemakers sounded optimistic, thanks to the warm Fall weather. But how would the wines taste? This we explored with the following winemakers at the BC Vintage 2022 media preview:
- Laurent Fadanni, Whispering Horse Winery, Fraser Valley
- Bailey Williamson, Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Vancouver Island
- Keira LeFranc, Stag’s Hollow Winery, Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley
- Howard Soon, Vanessa Vineyard, Similkameen Valley
- Nikki Callaway, O’Rourke Family Estate Winery, Lake Country, Okanagan Valley
The preview was moderated by Kurtis Kolt and the event was sponsored by the Wines of British Columbia. Kurtis gave us some background to the 2022 growing season, which he noted had started as the coolest on record, but then the last half of the growing season was the warmest experienced in BC. Truly not a vintage that was designed for the faint of heart. The long, warm Summer and Fall, ensured the grapes fully ripened and were able to be harvested in time across BC.
With our variations in climate from cool coastal to hot and warm interior regions, there were some differences in the vintage as noted by the winemakers. For Laurent Faddani in the Fraser Valley, he noted that this was an ideal vintage for the hybrid Epicure grape, which was the first wine we sampled. He did note that with the cooler spring, bud break did not start till the end of April and it wasn’t till the end of August before veraison (when the grapes start to turn acid into sugar) began.
In the interior, e.g. Okanagan Valley, there was much crop damage due to the cold winter weather with 30-40% reduced yield according to Nikki Callaway in Lake Country, while further south in the Okanagan, but surprisingly their Riesling grapes did very well, which led to the Riesling wine we sampled at the preview. Nikki was asked if she thinks more grapes will be planted in the Lake Country area, due to the warming climate. She answered yes, but it would be very site-specific. There will be suitable warmer areas, e.g. facing the lake and have a good slope facing toward the sun, which would work.
Keira LeFranc from Stag’s Hollow, located in Okanagan Falls, noted that they had a bumper crop of grapes, compared to the low volumes produced the previous two years. For 2022 the grapes had a long hang time due to the warm Fall, but the sugars in the grapes did not accumulate as quickly so their 2022 wines have gorgeous flavour development plus beautiful acidity.
Howard Soon introduced us to Vanessa Vineyard, which started in 2006 in the Similkameen Valley. The land was strewn with large rocks which were crushed into smaller rocks to cover the vineyard. The rocks help with drainage. This last vintage there was winter kill and they needed to do some replanting. They were forced to pick in October due to the change in weather.
Bailey Williamson discussed that although GDD has been going up due to climate change, what people are missing is the variability in the years. In 2022, bud break did not happen till really late as well as late flowering. If we didn’t have that warm September and October, Blue Grouse Winery would have been in trouble. The grapes would not have ripened enough. We need to look at climate a bit differently with big highs and big swings. On Vancouver Island, people really need to think about site selection and there may not be too much more prime area for grape growing. It will require more research into the soil, etc. Pinot Gris in the Cowichan grows like what Chardonnay does in a warmer climate according to Bailey. 60% of their 2022 Pinot Gris was naturally fermented in 60% concrete and the rest in neutral barrels. The resulting wines were blended. This is how he would also make a Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir that we had from Bailey was still in barrel, so he made a little blend for us from the lots he had. That is a very special treat. One of the lots was whole cluster fermented in amphora. I am looking forward to trying Bailey’s Pinot Noir when it is finally blended and officially released.
One of the interesting things, not harvest related, that Laurent mentioned is that people coming to their tasting room do not care if the grapes are vinifera or if they are hybrids. They come for the experience. Another interesting comment by Laurent was how he originally did not think that their vineyard would need irrigation as they are in the Fraser Valley which gets lots of rain. But in 2021 with the heat dome many vines died, so they installed an irrigation system. He is learning by working in the vineyard.
Rosé wine has become an important category in BC. Kurtis mentioned that not many regions around the world make rosé wines, so maybe it could be something we could promote.
Howard talked about their rosé made from Syrah and Merlot grapes. 2022 was a very hot year in the Similkameen Valley. The challenge of making a rose wine in a hot area is developing the phenolics and the tannins of the grape. You don’t want high tannins for rose, but you do want full fruit expression. Their rose was made with 2/3 Syrah and 1/3 Merlot. They pick the grapes for their rosé wines first and whole cluster pressed the grapes so you don’t get a lot of skin extraction, which is one of the places you get tannins.
Keira’s rosé was darker than some Pinot Noirs. The grape she used was Dolcetto which was direct pressed. Their Dolcetto rosé was a bit of an experiment in 2020 as they had more grapes than usual. They took two bins and made rosé from them. They crushed the grapes and let the grapes soak for five days before pressing off, which is quite unusual for rosé wine production. That much soaking would typically make a red, not rosé, wine colour. With concrete fermentation, some of the colour dissipated.
A very surprising wine was the Dornfelder pet-nat sparkling rosé by Whispering Horse Winery. Dornfelder is one of the few grapes that have red pulp. If you peel most varieties of grapes, the pulp is clear. Laurent was born in Italy and his father comes from the part of Italy where Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine, is made and he wanted to make a wine that reminded him of his parents. The grapes were harvested in mid-October at a record 20 brix. As the Fraser Valley is cool, it is hard to get the brix too high. Brix, btw, is one measure of the amount of sugar in the grapes. The crushed grapes spent one hour in the press to produce much colour. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tank for two weeks. An authentic Fraser Valley wine.
My Wine Tasting Notes
Whispering Horse Winery Epicure 2022, Fraser Valley – this is a Blattner hybrid cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Resistenzpartner. I have only tried this grape once before, with Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery on Vancouver Island. This is truly a cool-climate white grape. The wine was naturally fermented to dry. Only 68 cases were made, so a very small production. This wine has a bright, medium-plus intensity lemon colour. Deep, ripe aromas of pineapple, peach and a touch of green fruit. The aromas smelled similar to Viognier to me. It is medium-bodied, dry, with a lean mouthfeel. Tropical fruit to start then add some pepperiness on the mid palate and tart citrus and stone fruits on the finish.
O’Rourke Family Estate Riesling 2022, Lake Country – This wine has a medium lemon colour with a touch of green. Lighter aromas of mint, orange, and tropical fruits. Dry, medium-minus body, very smooth with a semi-round mouthfeel. Tart stone fruit and citrus flavours, with a notable touch of orange. Medium length.
Stag’s Hollow Winery Albarino 2022, Okanagan Falls – A deeper lemon colour. Ripe dried stone fruits, pineapple, and mint aromas. Dry, medium-plus body, round with a thicker textured mouthfeel. Ripe dried stone fruits with a touch of green fruit flavours. Bright acidity. Medium length with tropical fruit flavours on the finish. Tasty. –
Vanessa Vineyard V Series 2022, Similkameen Valley – This wine comes from grapes around British Columbia, a blend of several different varieties; 57% Semillon, 23% Marsanne, 16%Viognier, and 4% Gewurztraminer. This wine has a medium lemon colour. Closed aromas at the moment, maybe stone fruits. Light body, off-dry, smooth and round mouthfeel. Light flavours of stone fruits, apricots in particular and some pepperiness toward the finish. Medium length.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2022 (pre-bottle sample), Cowichan Valley – A light bright lemon pus green colour. Light lemon-lime aromas plus a touch of apricot. Dry, medium-plus body with a soft smooth mouthfeel. Stone fruit flavours, apricot in particular. Medium acidity and light pepperiness. Medium length.
Gold Hill Winery Cabernet Franc Rosé 2022, South Okanagan – A clear medium intensity bright salmon colour. Medium-intensity aromas of strawberries and toast. Dry, medium plus body, round with a lighter mouthfeel. Mineral, strawberries and a touch of pepperiness, with pineapple, green fruit and tart red fruit toward the finish. Medium-plus length. –
Vanessa Vineyard Rosé 2022, Similkameen Valley – A pale pinkish-orange colour. Light candied red fruit and rhubarb nose. Medium-minus body, smooth with a light mouthfeel. Candy apple and peppery on the palate. Medium acidity and light tannins.
Stag’s Hollow Winery Dolcetto Rosato 2022, Okanagan Falls – A medium-intensity electric candy apple red colour. Medium-intensity crisp red cherries plus some grape stem on the nose. Medium body, dry with a lean, light mouthfeel. Tart red fruit flavours. –
Whispering Horse Winery Adorn Sparkling Pet Nat 2022, Fraser Valley – Due to the short growing season in 2022, Laurent decided to make some sparkling wine as you don’t know when the rains in the Fraser Valley will start. This wine left lots of bubbles on the surface of the wine once poured. It has a darker candy apple red colour. Crisp red apple aromas. Medium body, lean with a mix of tiny creamy and biting bubbles. Crisp red fruit and red apple flavours. Medium length. Tasty.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Pinot Noir 2022 (barrel sample), Cowichan Valley – A pale clear garnet colour. Very aromatic with tart red cherries and candied cherries aromas. Lighter-bodied, dry with a soft mouthfeel. Red fruit, dill, and light oak on the palate. Classy.
O’Rourke Family Estate Pinot Noir 2022, Lake Country – A deeper clear garnet colour. I was surprised at how deep the colour was, considering that the grapes come from Lake Country. This wine has a medium-intensity red fruits and violets on the nose. Dry, medium-plus body smooth and round on the palate. Nutmeg, ripe red fruits, pepper and a touch of floral flavours. Medium acidity and oak tannins. Cherries and tartness toward the finish.
Gold Hill Winery Cabernet Franc 2022, South Okanagan – A deep, dull ruby colour. Medium-minus intensity aromas of tea leaves, red fruit and some toastiness. Fuller body, dry and smooth mouthfeel. Dill, black tea leaves, red cherries, and ripe red fruits with touches of nutmeg and capsicum toward the finish. Nice.
The white and rosé wines should be available for purchase with the red wines coming out in the Fall at the soonest in my opinion. I did not ask the winemakers at the preview about the availability of the wines. So, check out their website and your local wine shop, plus BC Liquor stores for these wines and enjoy our great wines.
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