Local wineries are expecting as sweet and abundant a payoff as Okanagan Valley wine growers thanks to a prolonged stretch of warm, dry weather.
Harper’s Trail vineyard manager John Dranchuk tested acid and sugar levels in the winery’s grapes on Wednesday in anticipation of harvesting them before the end of month.
Dranchuk started picking on Sept. 30 last year. If the weather holds, he expects he can begin a week ahead of schedule, he said.
“The tests will tell me when I’m going to be picking,” Dranchuk told The Daily News. “I’ll keep poking at it once a week and keep testing, but it should be a week earlier (than last year).”
A long, hot and dry summer can be credited for the early harvest. Dranchuk said the sun’s UV rays increase sugar levels. This creates a better tasting grape and, ultimately, wine. Rain and cold weather have the opposite effect.
When the sugar is up, it’s time to harvest, he said.
“I’m loving the weather,” said Dranchuk, adding it was 30 C at Harper’s Trail by noon.
The grapes at Privato Vineyard and Winery aren’t mature enough for harvest this year. But co-owner Debbie Woodward said the vineyards in Naramata and Penticton where Privato buys from now will be picked two weeks early.
“Normally, it’s always the Thanksgiving long weekend, but we’re looking at the end of September,” she said.
For Privato, the early harvest is a big deal, said Woodward.
“If we can produce a better quality wine, that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
In the Okanagan Valley, picking of the earliest-ripening grape varieties could begin within the week and farmers anticipate one of the best harvests ever.
“Reports from all across the valley indicate people say this crop will be outstanding in terms of its overall quality,” said Ed Schiller, a board member of the B.C. Grape Growers Association.
Schiller, who has a small vineyard in East Kelowna, said the growing conditions this summer have been nearly ideal.
“The amount of sustained heat we had on the vineyards was something a lot of people had never seen before,” Schiller said.
With plenty of warm days still ahead in September, this season could eclipse 1998 as the year with the greatest number of days where temperatures remain above 10 C, but below 30 C, a range known as a heat-degree day, perfect for grape growing.
Kelowna-area forecasts call for daytime high temperatures of 29 C every day this week, or about seven degrees warmer than usual for mid-September.
In Kamloops, temperatures are expected to hover between 30 and 34 C until Sunday.