A wine-harvest record

While it's a little cold and dreary outside, it's great weather for grape pickers.

This year's wine harvest has already begun at wineries up and down the Valley, with pickers quickly moving from picking fruit to picking vines.

The harvest began Aug. 17 at Evolve Cellars in Summerland – the earliest harvest-start date on record.

“Last year was the earliest we had ever seen it and this year we are a couple days earlier than last year,” said Christa-Lee McWatters-Bond, director of marketing of Evolve Cellars with the Encore Vineyards Ltd. family.

British Columbia Wine Institute's Laura Kittmer said the year's harvest beats last year's harvest-start date of Aug. 19.

“One of the challenges last year was that a lot of the wineries weren't ready for that early harvest, so this year wineries were ready,” said Kittmer. 

Kittmer said a lot of the early ripening white and red sparkling-wine varietals are being harvested now, with the bolder reds needing a few more weeks on the vine.

“That is throughout the Fraser Valley, Similkameen, Kamloops and the Okanagan,” said Kittmer.

She said the grape season started quick with the earliest bud break on record in April, slowed down with a cooler June and July and finished strong in August.

“In August, we got the hot, dry weather once again that really ripened the flavours, letting the grapes develop those flavour characteristics. You want the heat to ripen the flavours and you want the cooler nights to develop that crisp acidity that B.C. wine is so well known for,” said Kittmer.

Quails' Gate Winery started to harvest its estate Maréchal Foch varietal on Tuesday from the winery's property on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna.

Winemaker Nikki Callaway said this year's harvest is 7-10 days ahead of previous vintages.

“Cleaner fruit, the earlier you harvest the less chance and risk of frost, rot, too much rain, bad weather,” said Callaway.

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