2017 was a far more “normal” growing season for the Okanagan Valley, after a string of early, hot vintages starting in 2013. Though this must be taken with a grain of salt, as temperatures were still quite high compared to historical averages.
The winter was extremely snowy and early spring was wet, supplying the vineyards with a good soaking and filling up the water table. This wet, cool spring lead to bud break the second week of May for most of the varieties we work with. On average, this is two weeks to a month later than 2016, depending on variety and site.
Flowering occurred in early June when our cool spring jumped right into full-on summer weather. The heat following the wet produced full vineyard canopy growth, suckering, and shoot positioning. At many sites this growth was happening all at the same time.
With all the heat in early July onward, we made the decision to leave a heavier crop in order to slow the potential for early sugar ripeness. We had success with this in the past and by the time the heavy heat and smoky skies arrived, we were happy to have chosen to do this again in 2017.
Naramata saw no rain for 54 consecutive days this summer, and no rainfall accumulation for the months of July and August. Those months saw continuous temperature spikes and smoky skies. Once the fruit set, we left more than usual to ripen. Mildew was an ever-present threat from the wet weather following fruit set in close conjunction with the high temperatures and minimal wind. This prompted our vineyard crew to act preventatively and quickly to open the canopy for airflow.
Veraison was a bit later than expected (the second to last week of August) but finished extremely rapdily. Our first pick of the year was on August 27th. This was for our two sparkling wines, as well as the first pick in a series of picks for our Un-oaked Chardonnay. September brought cooler temperatures, and slowed things down nicely. We had great hang time for phenolic development, with the rest of our varieties coming in throughout October. All of our tonnage was completely picked by October 27th and vinified by mid-November.
Despite the hot and very dry summer, we saw low pH and lower brix levels than the previous three vintages, demonstrating that 2017 will express a cooler vintage profile. Overall, expect more freshness, minerality, and an excellent balance of acidity.