Wines of Worth – 2012 Vintage in the Okanagan Valley


‘Tis the season. No – not that season. Even better. Rosé season! Spring in wine country, and by extension, locavore-loving BC, means the first appearance of 2012 whites and rosés in restaurants and store shelves. Earlier this week a small panel of winemakers and viticulturists from the Okanagan gathered to discuss last year’s vintage and give a glimpse of what we’re soon going to be enjoying in the glass.

Though 2010 and 2011 were widely recognized as “challenging” vintages, the wines from these piggybacked cool years ultimately yielded wines of bright acidity, low alcohol and a clean refinement that was welcome by most consumers. 2011 was one of the coolest vintages on record. In contrast, 2012 was much warmer, though not excessively or damagingly so. In fact, the panel was positively jolly that 2012 was “average”.

{I talked to a number of winemakers mid-harvest last fall. See what they had to say back THEN}

Healthy rains in the spring and into June provided ample water to the vines, and a warm and dry summer carried through into September and the start of the 2102 harvest in the southern Okanagan, on September 9. This year I noticed a definite shift in irrigation mentality across the panel. Instead of irrigation deprivation – denying the plant water to provide stress and concentrate the flavours in the grapes – winemakers’ pendulum has shifted to careful and measured watering as the plant needs it. Warwick Shaw, viticulturalist at Tantalus, noted that “the plants pay for deficit irrigation in hard winters, as they may die off. There is a move to not overstress the vines.”

Though in many regards, 2012 was a “textbook year” according to the panelists, the main hiccup shared down the valley was a period of rainfall during the last two weeks of the harvest. While most of the white grapes were in, the majority of the black grapes were still on vine when the rains hit, leaving some wineries in a scramble to pick or gamble on the wet conditions. Soggy grapes are no good in the winery (think adding a splash of water to your glass of Riesling) or hanging on the vine (dampness can lead to disease and rot).

Fortunately, however, last summer’s extended warmth has translated to riper, fruit-expressive wines. You’ll notice a bit more tropical fruit in the whites, and plumper roundness in many of the reds. In comparison to the leanness of 2011, this highlights the importance of vintage – and why wine geeks like me get caught up talking about them. AND (topic for another column), one reason why vintages on restaurant winelists are so important.

Okanagan Crush Pad winemaker Michael Bartier summed up the wines succinctly. “2012 is a baby. I’m drinking 2007 BC wines right now. They’re really good.” Excellent to hear. I like having something to look forward to.


Here are a few first tastes from the 2012 vintage in the Okanagan Valley.

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley. $18.49  12.9%
From Oliver’s Golden Mile, this Gew is mostly 16 year old vines (that’s old for the Okanagan) and full of soft perfume, fragrant lemon blossom and ripe gooseberry. Moderate acidity and medium body, with lingering peach spiciness to lead through the finish.

Sandhill Sauvignon Blanc 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley. $18.99  13.5%
This is the first Sauvignon Blanc from Hidden Terrace Vineyard, nestled behind McIntyre Bluff north of Oliver. An impressive showing from three year old vines, with bright acidity, light herbal and tight green spring bud greenness and sweet, ripe grapefruit to temper.

Van Westen Vineyards Viognier 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley.  $24.90  13.7%
Naramata Bench’s Rob Van Westen has never been known for making shy wines, and the newest Viognier is true to form. Even in this unreleased tank sample, the perfumed cold cream, tropical honeysuckle, white flowers and spike of ginger spice previews a ripe, highly perfumed lush and creamy white.

Haywire Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley. $23.00  13%
This tank sample, from Summerland’s experimental Switchback Vineyard, hints at the constant evolution of Okanagan Crush Pad’s wines. At this site, extensive soil analysis has resulted in various small lots of Pinot Gris being treated and fermented separately, and then reunited in the winery. The pure fruit intensity and creamy textured weight promise an impressive finished wine. I’m looking forward to this upon release.

Tantalus Vineyards Riesling 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley. $22.90  12.3%
Another fantastic example of vintage-driven wines, the 2012 Riesling has a beautiful concentration of pear, lime blossom and their characteristic quenching lime acidity. This year a touch of the tropics adds an additional dimension and amps up the palate plumpness. Delish. As viticulturalist Warwick Shaw put it, “It’s Riesling. Don’t get too cute with it.”


For more information on BC’s wine regions visit BC Wine Institute –

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

Comments are closed.