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

Community lends a hand after fire

Fundraiser to aid fire victim’s wife

Penticton bookkeeper nets 90 days for $60k embezzlement

Judith Kendrick pleaded guilty to fraud late last year, and was up for sentencing Tuesday morning

Video: Physicians salute Penticton philanthropist

Physicians say philanthropist, David Kampe, “single-handedly” changed patient care quality

Dine Around Thompson Okanagan set to kick off

Popular event kicks off in Kelowna with a sold out launch party

Freezing rain warning in effect for B.C. Southern Interior

Environment Canada issued the freezing rain warning for most of the Southern Interior Tuesday morning

Penticton youth centre finally gets home, sweet home

Youth centre organizers can start renovating 501 Main Street after getting the keys to the building

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

Premier offers condolences to family of boy, 15, killed in Vancouver crossfire

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Kamloops Mounties investigate reported home invasion in Dallas home

Kamloops Mounties were called to the home just after midnight after reports of people yelling and kicking in a door

Poetry collection preserves Indigenous knowledge

B.C. author collaborates with Shuswap students, First Nations elders

Most Read