Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Pruning has begun for Okanagan wine business

Throughout the Okanagan Valley, pruning and other springtime activities are well underway. Although pruning is best accomplished early in the winter, one can still wait around here as long as the sap hasn't started to run fast and the buds are swelling.

Wine growers are already anticipating a good season. With February almost over, the threat of a deep freeze that would damage the vine's potential is becoming less likely as each day passes.

Sure, it's possible. But harsh temperatures in the -20 C range are very rare in March around here.

What is more worrisome is the threat of a spring frost once the buds are already engaged in their growth phase.

Wine makers reflecting on the 2004 vintage are pleased. A cool and wet period lasting most of August last year slowed the ripening process. This created ideal conditions for developing complex flavours in the grapes; flavours that were passed on to the ferments. Most vineyards and wineries reported excellent harvest conditions once September and October rolled around.

At Stag's Hollow, all three whites produced are showing qualities worthy of praise. The award winning Sauvignon Blanc promises to be as inspiring as the 2003 (now sold-out) with less grapefruit notes in favour of a lush, tangerine expression. The hybrid Vidal, bottled as Tragically Vidal, is it's usual fruit salad character with slightly less alcohol than last year. It's the perfect off dry patio sipper. The Chardonnay is quite bold and displays unusual balance in the palate at such a young age. The Chard should emerge as another excellent example of this premium varietal. Look for the Vidal and Sauvignon Blanc this spring with the Chard going to the bottling line in August. However, Stag's Hollow Chardonnay traditionally is best after at least a year in the bottle so don't look for this one on the shelves until early 2006.

The 2003 Pinot Noir is the red that's drawing plenty of attention. Barrel samplers remarked on the huge fruit and deep garnet colour. Very rich and assertive. The plan is to bottle this spring and release it in the early summer. A Pinot like this will require another year or so in the bottle to harmonize all the robust components. The 2004 is more like a classic Pinot at this stage; plenty of soft berry flavours and spice notes.

NEXT: The news about MERLOT

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