I am writing this while overlooking our Vineyard on the south-facing slope of the Shuswap Lake. Below me are several acres of vines showing their new shoots of spring. I'm reflecting on the relationship of the grape and next year's wine.
Fantastic wine is made in the vineyard as much as it is made in the winery. While visitors will find it fun to understand how to taste wine and how the wine is made by the seller master, of significance are the steps taken by the vineyard crew in the grape growing process, a yearly cycle that begins in February.
To help you make the most of your next visit to a winery here is a brief summary of how berries are grown from season start to finish. Just a reminder, this year's new wines are fermented from last year's grape crop or in many cases the wine has been aged for several years to enhance quality.
February to March is pruning time and when the vines are prepped for the growing season. One of the main goals is to ensure there is enough potential vegetative growth to ripen the crops and enough fruitful buds to provide an adequate crop load.
April to May is bud break time and dead-looking trunks are waiting to be reborn with new green flesh. Vines come alive and shoots emerge from latent buds. The new growth creates the grapes, develops them over this summer and finishes its work with sugar and perfume. Shoot thinning is undertaken to adjust crop loads and improve light penetration into the canopy later in the season.
June to July is blossom time when small clusters form on young shoots and flower. Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such are not dependant on bees. Fruit set follows immediately after blossoming and the fertilized flower develop great berries.
August is veraison time, signifying the start of ripening when the hard green berries begin to change colour, soften and develop sugar and flavour.
September to October is harvest time when grapes reach peak ripeness, and when appropriate brixs (sugar) levels are reached grape clusters are picked. Then, after crush, the grapes go through a remarkable transcendent change from grape juice into luscious, aromatic wines. Wine is truly a collaboration of vines and grapes and the meshing of a human ritual of wine making. As it has been done for hundreds of years the cycle of the grape growing season is repeated all over again.
October to November is late harvest time. Grapes are left to hang to maximize sugar levels and when picked are fermented into dessert wines.