Did you know that all Niche Wine is produced entirely from grapes grown by Hugh and Mary Vineyard? This small piece of paradise is located in West Kelowna and owned and operated by James’ parents, Kathleen and Jerry. With the help of friends and family, we harvest these grapes in small batches, and once they are harvested, James happily spends long days earning his grape-stained palms and wet, muddy boots. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is actually. That being said, I would be lying if I said I could remember a year where everything went according to plan. Here is a little look inside #BCHarvest2017. The good, the bad, and the beer.
We are making a sparkling for the first time this year [insert fist-pump emoji here] so harvest started almost a month earlier than normal. This early start made for warm days and the happiest harvesters. Honestly, we had an incredible group of friends and family that arrived weekend after weekend, eager for fresh fall air, grape-picking giggles, and a glass of wine (or two) with lunch. James will be the first to tell you that harvest is the MOST wonderful time of the year but the opportunity to experience it with such a stellar group of people, well it really doesn’t get better than that.
Something I did not know before I entered the wine business is that farming is actually really dramatic. Trying to maintain some level of control over what is happening in the vineyard is made almost impossible by the sheer force of Mother Nature’s will. Even the ‘perfect’ growing season can usher in unforeseen pitfalls like off-the-chart brix, overflowing tank space or uncontrollable birds.
In 2010 we had two baby cubs break into the vineyard. They ate one ton of grapes (yes, an entire ton) in one night. This was also the worst growing season the Okanagan had seen in years and many speculated the fruit would not even ripen. The drama of 2010 was quickly eclipsed by the wasp infestation in 2013. Swarms of wasps could be found attacking grape clusters in the top vineyard causing all kinds of damage. The tank space crises of 2014 was probably the most intense as it coincided with the birth of our son (talk about a perfect storm).
All that to say that 2017 was actually pretty mellow. Sure, we had cold and rainy days in the rows, and yes, there was the occasional hiccup on the crush pad but in the grand scheme of things, it was a good year. Given the fact the wine isn’t yet bottles, I think we could go as far to say, it is the best year on record… until proven otherwise.
My parents were in town for Thanksgiving long weekend and were a couple of the happy harvesters who pitched in to pick the Pinot. My Mom’s short stature makes her an excellent and efficient picker and my Dad loves driving around in the camo ATV (I mean, who doesn’t). After a long morning of chatting between rows, we broke for lunch. It was only then that my Mom realized she had lost the diamond from her ring… somewhere in the vineyard. The search began.
A small group of pickers took to the top vineyard, combining the rows. Others were on hands and knees in the picnic area where lunch was served. As I dumped her purse on the table, frantically searching, I distinctly remember thinking ‘there is no way we are going to find this thing”. It was just then that I heard someone yell from the top vineyard, ‘FOUND IT!”.
People who love to eat, are in fact, the best kind of people
This year we were spoiled by the culinary artistry of Julian from One Big Table. One Big Table is a cooperative-owned grocery store dedicated to providing seasonal fruits and vegetables, free-range meats and eggs, artisan cheeses and bread to its members on a daily basis. They look for the small, the unique, the traditionally made ingredients that reflect what British Columbia has to offer and obviously, we LOVE that. Julian set up shop in our picnic area the first Saturday of Harvest and served hot soup, killer sandwiches, and hearty artichoke pizza that exploded with flavour and paired really well with the pinot noir.
We were also lucky to have David and Allison (@Spatulamedia) in the vineyard over a series of weekends to capture the magic. This dynamic duo support BC food and wine like nobody’s business. David’s ability to capture, in film and photo, the real feels is amazing. Not only is he responsible for all these beautiful photos you see here but also this short interview with James.
[insert video here]
Stay tuned for more news on how the 2017 vintage is coming along and when the bubbles will be ready!