Wines of Worth: BC Harvest 2012



That big {woosh} you heard is one collective sigh of relief from our province’s winemakers.

After two challenging vintages in BC, the 2012 harvest is looking very promising with regards to both quality and, in some areas, quantity. Despite a wetter spring and early concern, the blast of heat through August and September really helped the vines’ development and maturity. Though some regions, like the Wine Islands and Fraser Valley, are harvesting a little later due to June’s record rains, the southern Okanagan began picking on September 7, more than one week ahead of the 2010 and 2011 vintages.

We’ve certainly had a recent stint of extremes: while 2011 was the coolest growing season on record in the Okanagan, 2012 has been one of the hottest – and that’s following the record rainfall in June.

Most winemakers I’ve spoken to are optimistic about the health of the grapes and the quality of the fruit. I quickly polled a half dozen wineries throughout BC to get their thoughts on this year’s vintage, mid-harvest.


Sandra Oldfield, Tinhorn Creek, Oliver

1. What are your overall thoughts on this year’s vintage?
Average with respect to heat, cold etc.  Fairly reminiscent of 2000-2007 a bit—fairly hot summer but with a bit more coolness and rain in June.

2. What day did you start harvesting grapes at your estate?
September 10

3. How are quantities vs. 2011?
We are down a bit in the whites and average crop in the reds so far.  As of today we are about 50% picked.

4. If you haven’t finished harvest, when is your estimated finish?

5. Sum up the 2012 Vintage in one word.


Rhys Pender, Little Farm Winery, Similkameen

1. What are your overall thoughts on this year’s vintage?
Started wet, but water seemed to be regional and amount of water holding very linked to soil type (e.g. in Naramata many didn’t have to water until late August). Then July storms with some hail and after that great until a late August hail storm. But little damage other than some ugly bruising. Then more dry (I don’t think it rained between late July and mid October) and warm conditions giving a long, very, very good season.

2. What day did you start harvesting grapes at your estate?
Started 28 Sept with 2 tons of Cab Franc harvested at Blind Creek Vineyard in Cawston for a rosé.

3. How are quantities vs. 2011?
Doesn’t apply to our small vineyard. Same as 2011 until new plantings come into play.

4. If you haven’t finished harvest, when is your estimated finish?
Picking Riesling this week.

5. Sum up the 2012 Vintage in one word.


Matthew Sherlock, Nichol Vineyard, Naramata

1. What are your overall thoughts on this year’s vintage?
Solid and consistent. Good fruit set. Nothing extreme this year. A vintage of relative normals.

2. What day did you start harvesting grapes at your estate?
Pinot gris on October 8th.

3. How are quantities vs. 2011?
Up. Without qualitative sacrifice. 2011 was very very small and had to be. 2012 could handle a touch more volume after the previous small crops. Better weather and lots of latent energy in the vines.

4. If you haven’t finished harvest, when is your estimated finish?
Syrah sometime around the 22nd or so.

5. Sum up the 2012 Vintage in one word.


Matt Mavety, Blue Mountain, Okanagan Falls

1. What are your overall thoughts on this year’s vintage?
Good timing for budbreak but then cool and wet through to mid-July.  This presented some challenges in terms of disease management with increased powdery mildew pressure.  For us, we were able to stay on top of our spray program and did not have any  disease to speak about.  Cool and wet conditions impacted the bloom, resulting in reduced yield potential.  The season was saved with dry and warm conditions from mid-July through the second week in October. Challenging growing season.  Beautiful conditions for the harvest, dry sunny days with cool nights allowed for preservation of acidity and fantastic flavour development.

2. What day did you start harvesting grapes at your estate?
12 September with Pinot Noir for sparkling wine and completed the harvest on the 9th of October.

3. How are quantities vs. 2011?
For Blue Mountain, our quantity is down 10% from 2011 but I would consider the yield to be a normal average in terms of volume.

4. If you haven’t finished harvest, when is your estimated finish?
9th of October

5. Sum up the 2012 Vintage in one word.


Ken Winchester, DeVine Vineyards, Saanich Peninsula

1. What are your overall thoughts on this year’s vintage?
The lousy weather last spring (remember “Junuary”?) was a disappointing start to the season, but sun finally prevailed, photosynthesis kicked in, and the vines slowly but surely caught up.  In the end it ranked up there with 2006 and 2009. Maybe it’s a mystical three-year cycle.

2. What day did you start harvesting grapes at your estate?
Our Pinot Gris clusters look like small gray hand grenades. For fear of botrytis creeping into these tight clusters, we started picking the second week of October, just before the first rains. We followed with Pinot Blanc, Foch, Pinot Noir, and Gruner Veltliner.

3. How are quantities vs. 2011?
Yields were down and berry size was small, a disappointment to the grower but not to the winemaker. This translated to better flavor as it increased the skin to juice ratio. Sugar, acid and pH were generally in good balance, with promising aromatics typical of cool-climate varieties. Instead of the Granny Smith and grapefruit of the past two years, I’m looking for 2012 Island wines to show ripe apple, peach, pear, citrus, and hints of minerality.

4. If you haven’t finished harvest, when is your estimated finish?
We picked everything but our Gruner Veltliner by October 16, with good sugars and acids, and the Gruner two weeks later.

5. Sum up the 2012 Vintage in one word


Rolf de Bruin, Fort Berens Estate Winery, Lillooet

1. What are your overall thoughts on this year’s vintage?
This vintage in Lillooet is pretty amazing. Spring was warm and dry, though the hot weather did not come until July. We had a hot spell of a week with a few days over 40c. The hot period extended well into September with a few days with above 35c in September, though with many cool nights. October was pretty mild with no frost to date. Recently, weather has become more unstable with more wind, clouds and a few drops of rain.

Precipitation this year was limited to a few days. Some of these days, we actually had a lot of rain which was actually nice, because usually the rain during the summer is insignificant. The above average rain replaced some of our irrigation days and since it was concentrated to a few days, we did not lose any heat or sunshine because of it.

This weather has led to an early harvest. We harvest our Chardonnay on September 21st,  7 days earlier than last year, even when the vines are carrying three times as much fruit. We picked our Pinot Gris on September 28th, almost 14 days earlier than last year. Pinot Noir was picked on Oct 9th (last year on October 19th). Merlot on October 15th (last year (October 13th). The remaining varieties (Riesling and Cabernet Franc) will be picked in the next two weeks (similar to last year).

We are very happy with the quality of the fruit. The fruit is very clean after a season with little disease pressure. Netting and fencing helped to keep birds, deer and bears out. Flavours are amazing and the fruit is much better balanced than last year. Sugar levels are fairly average (23 Brix for whites, 24.5 Brix for reds). Acid levels are nicely preserved thanks to the cooler nights in September.

2. What day did you start harvesting grapes at your estate?
September 21st 2012

3. How are quantities vs. 2011?
Yield is up about 300%. Last year was our first harvest (3rd leaf) and the increase in yield is thus expected.

4. If you haven’t finished harvest, when is your estimated finish?
Two days after the first frost.

5. Sum up the 2012 Vintage in one word.
Without stress


For the latest harvest updates follow the BC Wine Institute on Facebook at, or follow @winebcdotcom  and #BCharvest2012 on Twitter.



Here are a few recommended BC wines from the 2011 vintage that show how skilled winemakers answered Mother Nature’s challenge.


Little Farm Winery Chardonnay 2011
Similkameen Valley
The first vintage from Canada’s most recent (and youngest ever) Master of Wine, Rhys Pender, and his wife Alishan Driediger, this acid-driven Chardonnay was whole-cluster pressed and fermented in aged French oak. I liken it to Similkablis – Similkameen meets Chablis, with crisp, piercing citrus, stone and chalky notes, along with a nutshell snappiness. A mere one barrel made 22-ish cases.

Fort Berens Estate Winery 23 Camels White 2011
A blend of estate fruit supplemented with Black Sage Bench, this blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling sings of Peach from sniff through swallow. Bright citrus and familiar red apple, tempered with herbal notes, make this an easy choice.

Hester Creek Estate Winery Old Vines Trebbiano 2011
I’m not alone in my adoration of this wine. Vij’s restaurants – for example – snap up this fresh, aromatic white to pair with their famous curries. Mandarin orange, pink grapefruit and lemon peel are layered throughout this medium bodied, fresh wine. Old vines, planted in 1972, lend concentration without blousiness. This wine is a rare gem – the Okanagan’s (Canada’s?) only commercial Trebbiano planting.

Blue Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir 2011
Okanagan Falls
One of a select few 2011 reds released, this Gamay is classic Okanagan – juicy cassis, dried herbs, spicy earthiness, floral finish. Lighter in style, but no lightweight, this savoury red shows what Gamay is capable of in the Okanagan.

Okanagan Crush Pad Kurtis Semillon 2011
I’m so glad this wine, the result of OCP’s sponsorship of Vancouver International Wine Festival’s Sommelier of the Year, was made in 2011. This Semillon, entirely from Oliver’s Cequeira Vineyard, isn’t shy on the acid. And that’s entirely what a Semillon crafted like this needs to go the distance. Hatched in a concrete egg, this wine was built to evolve over time. Yes – it’s drinking fantastically now. Lively citrus and green fig and round, oily sem-ness. But oh – where this wine could go in a few years…

Bella Wines Sparkling Chardonnay 2011
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. When nature hands you acid, make bubble. While that may be true, for Jay Drysdale, his love (outside of his now-wife Wendy and bulldog Bella) was for sparkling, and his plan to create high quality, uncompromising, traditional method bubble. In his first vintage, he’s created this single-vineyard Bella. Clean and razor sharp, this zero-dosage, bone-dry wine spent 6 weeks on lees to round out the corners, and expresses light floral, Meyer lemon and green pear.

Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2011
One of the most popular wines in their portfolio, and it’s easy to see why. It’s fruity and light-bodied, with subtle ginger spice and tropical allure, but still dry and bright, making it a friend of food pairings (and friendly on your wallet too). No flabby gooey Gew here. Stock up on this and serve it year round.

CedarCreek Platinum Viognier 2011

This lucky Osoyoos fruit. Under winemaker Darryl Brooker, one third has spent time in oak barrel, one third in stainless steel and one third in concrete, before being reunited to harmonize. A dainty, restrained perfume hints at honeysuckle, delicate apricot and tropical fruit, the bright acidity reining in any overwrought flamboyance that this grape can flaunt. Baby vines, and they’re only going to gain intensity with age.

Nichol Vineyards Nine Mile White 2011
Fans of Naramata’s ‘treasure at the end of the road’ Nichol Vineyards will well be familiar with Nine Mile Red, but Nine Mile White? New for 2012, this stainless steel blend of Gewurztraminer and Riesling has all of the perfumed lychee and limey minerality you’d expect from the blend, without any of the soapy sweetness. Crisp, lightbodied and thirst quenching, bright and lively throughout, this is easy to appreciate and much too easy to enjoy.

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2011
There are fewer grapes that get my heart racing more than Chenin Blanc. And the fact that Quails’ Gate, one of the few Canadian wineries with Chenin vines (and relatively sizable plantings even), vinifies a stellar one, makes my heart full, and racing. Zesty citrus, chalk, green apple and vibrant acidity, buoyed by a lean year, will reward even further if you can wait a couple years to enjoy.


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*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. Some may be in limited quantities. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. Prices may vary.

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 ...

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