Winemaker Kathy Malone of Hillside Winery Bistro examines the fruits of the grower’s labours. Mark Brett/Western News

Grape harvest in full swing

A look at the growing season this year at Hillside Winery Bistro

Each growing season Mother Nature likes to dish up a few surprises for Okanagan grape growers and winemakers; 2017 is no exception.

In fact, the torrential downpours in the spring and drought-like conditions in the summer, mixed in with weeks of smoke and ash were cause for more than just a little concern.

“Every year brings something different,” said Hillside Winery Bistro winemaker Kathy Malone last week during the harvesting of their Muscat grapes from vines planted in 1984. “But whatever happens we’re learning something, good or bad. There’s no point in worrying every year is a challenge. Every year we push the envelope a little bit. It’s half strategizing and half trouble shooting, being able to react to changes in the situation and react to the fruit as it comes in.”

The smoke from the forest fires which blanketed the valley for much of the latter stages of the summer was late enough that she doesn’t think it will impact the flavour.

In fact, Malone believes it may have actually been a blessing.

“I think we lucked out this year, the only impact I think is that it lowered the temperatures a bit during our really hot days which actually gave us a more optimum temperature,” she said. “If it gets too hot it stresses the vines and they shut down and also it (heat) advances ripening so we get too much sugar which means we get too much alcohol, the smoke actually acted as a filter.

“I think they (wines) we’ll have a really good balance this year because we’ve had warm nights that have brought the acid down to really good levels and it hasn’t been too too hot so the sugars are just at optimum picking levels.”

Muscat is a white wine grape and one of the older varieties and is picked earlier than the red grapes which are still on the vines and will be harvested in the upcoming month.

It is also unique in it is one of the only berry species in which the grape tastes the same as the finished produce in the glass.

Malone keeps a close eye on the grapes this time of year. When the seeds of the fruit turn brown, the flavour becomes pleasant to creatures like birds and bears for propagation purposes and humans as well.

“This is the most exciting time of the year for us,” said Hillside president Duncan McCowan. “This is where it all culminates into the grapes coming in. You can just feel the energy. It’s looking great this year. The first batch that are in, I’m just thrilled how the quality is coming in.”

Hillside has decided to only buy its additional needed grapes from local growers.

“It just makes sense that people are here and they want to taste wine from here,” said Malone. “So there’s no point using grapes from Oliver and we want to dial in these sort of small micro climates and showcase them in wines.

“Buyers are becoming more informed all the time and we’re trying to let the customer share in the experience.”

Laura Kittmer, media relations officer with the B.C. Wine Institute headquartered in Kelowna, expects the tourism winery numbers to fall short of what was record year in 2015.

“With the flooding in the spring and the smoke from the wildfires, I don’t think the numbers will be as high. You have to remember last year we had an incredible early start to spring and summer which brought out the tourists and visitors,” she said.

“It’s still a growing industry. We are young and learning as every vintage is different. No two years seem to be the same. So we have to cross your fingers a bit every year and hope Mother Nature will be on our side.”

 

Karin Parkin looks over recently harvest Muscat grapes at Hillside Winery Bistro. Mark Brett/Western News

Kitson Stewart empties the stems from the bin after processing at Hillside Winery Bistro. Mark Brett/Western News

Sorting grapes at Hillside Winery Bistro are Kathy Malone (right) Kitson Stewart (left) and Dave Holmes (back). Mark Brett/Western News

Honey bees from the nearby hive enjoy the grape juice this time of year. Mark Brett/Western News

Just Posted

One firepit per campground

Oliver council reviewing bylaw that would limit one campfire per campground

Hwy. 97 reopened after Trout Creek collision

No details on injuries or cause yet

Souper Sunday raises Soupateria profile

The competition pits local chefs against each other to make soup for the those in need.

Supporting survivors of breast cancer

Survivorship shows there is life beyond cancer

Foreigner feeling like the first time after 40

Foreigner doesn’t miss a beat after 40 years

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

Contenders to perform at Okanagan venues

This year, musicians Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard will be joined by Blu and Kelly Hopkins

Justin Timberlake invited back to Super Bowl halftime show

A ‘wardrobe malfunction’ with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy during his last appearance

A scary box office weekend for everyone but Tyler Perry

‘Boo 2! A Madea Halloween’ scared up a healthy $21.7 million in its first weekend in theatres

Even as long-form census data returns, Statcan readies for day without it

Wednesday’s release is expected to show immigrants making up a larger share of the population

Letterkenny stars take their act to the Okanagan

The stars of the Crave TV original series Letterkenny will be performing in Kelowna

Brantley Gilbert to take The Ones That Like Me 2018 Tour to Kelowna

With Rolling Stone citing Devil Don’t Sleep Best of 2017, it’s gonna rock

Family worries about missing Malakwa woman

Discovery of human remains has put family members on edge

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

Most Read