2018 was again a far more “normal” growing season for the Okanagan Valley after the string of early, hot vintages between 2013-2016. The winter was extremely snowy and early spring was wet, supplying the vineyards with a good soaking and filling up the water table. A warm April had bud break occurring in the last days of April and first week of May for most varieties.
Mid-May was hot and dry with flowering occurring in early June. Early June was wet and followed by some heat which produced a full vineyard canopy by mid-June, keeping our vineyard crew running to keep up with canopy growth, suckering and shoot positioning, which all happened at the same time. Early July was a bit wet, with alarming heat following from mid-July on.
We left all shoots to create a heavier crop to retard the potential for early sugar ripeness (as we have had success doing this in past hot and early vintages). Once the fruit set, we left more than usual to ripen. Intense lightening storms occurred in mid-July and started forest fires around the province. Smokey skies continued through July and all of August before returning to drastically cooler temperatures in early September.
Veraison occurred in the first week of August and ripening was gradual throughout the rest of the summer, as the thick smoke provided a UV blanket over the valley, slowing the ripening that threatened to speed ahead in July. Our first pick was for our bubble on Sept 2 and unoaked Chardonnay, with ripeness then slowing down.
The cool, wet weather proceeded right though September and early October. We had great hang time for phenolic development with the rest of our varietals, most coming in mid-October and all of our tonnage completely picked by October 22nd and vinified by the mid-November.
Despite an intensely hot summer, we saw low pH and lower brix than previous vintages, demonstrating that 2018 will express a cooler vintage profile. Overall, expect more freshness, minerality, and fantastic natural balance.