Hurry up, Mother Nature

A warmer than normal January might be welcomed by most in the Okanagan, but it is causing anxiety for winemakers. 

Temperatures dropped to - 9 C in Kelowna at 1 a.m. Tuesday, which would appear to be the prime opportunity for ice wine grape harvesting.

Winemaker Michael Alexander at Summerhill Pyramid Winery said crews were on standby, but didn’t pick anything. 

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t cold enough ... to freeze the grapes where we wanted them. We are still on call and still waiting, and as of now it is all still hanging,” he said.

The longer wineries wait to pick the grapes, the more drop off they will have.

Alexander is hopeful though.

“January historically is the coldest month, and all it takes is one cold snap blowing in to chill things down. So, realistically, we will probably wait until the end of the month,” he said.

If ice wine doesn’t work out this year (the last time it didn't in the Okanagan was 1993), they will still use the grapes. The ideal temperature for picking ice wine grapes is -12 C.

“Come the end of January, start of February if it is still hanging, we will pick it for late harvest as opposed to ice wine,” he said.

The crew at Summerhill Pyramid Winery is anxious.

“That is just the reality and risk of ice wine – some years, we don’t get it and it becomes late harvest. We all knew what we were getting into when we registered the fruit,” he said.

For now, they will wait for Mother Nature to decide if there will be a 2019 ice wine. 

“We are just here to process it when she decides it is ready to go,” said Alexander. 

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