Cold, rain affect wineries

Chelsea Powrie

It has been a strange year for Okanagan weather, and the wineries that call this region home have felt the fluctuation.

A frigid February and early March caused trouble for some vineyards. Loose-textured soils like clays didn't warm up fast enough in the spring to sustain root growth. 

"We've some winter damage this year, which has been very different than any of the other growing seasons we've seen here," said Rebecca Mikulic, vice president of Earlco Vineyards. "The roots couldn't get any water, so we saw some winter damage, which I've never seen on the [Naramata Bench] before."

Then, as summer arrived, the heavy rain came, another abnormal occurrence. 

"The rains increase the berry size, reducing the skin to juice ratio, so the winemakers will have to pick maybe a little later than they'd like to," said Graham O'Rourke, co-owner and viticulturist with Tightrope Winery. "Which will increase the sugars, which could potentially give us alcohols we don't really want, a little too high, but we don't know how the rest of the summer will go."

But it's not all bad news for local wineries. Tasting rooms all along the Naramata Bench have seen an uptick in business correlated with the poor weather. 

"The rains and the clouds keep people off the beach and out of their boats and in the wine shops buying wine," O'Rourke said. 

Going forward, fingers are crossed for sunshine, for the sake of the crops. 

"As long as we're getting those 'degree days,' which is just sun exposure to the vines, we should be fine," Mikulic said. "A nice balance between rain and sun is always perfect."

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