As the hustle of harvest comes to a close, winemakers shift their focus from the vineyard to the cellar.
Although the 2022 harvest season presented challenges for winemakers across the country — a cool, wet spring and early summer in B.C., winter damage in Ontario and Hurricane Fiona in Nova Scotia — three of Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) graduates can all agree they are excited about the quality of fruit this vintage.
Barclay Robinson (BSc ’09), Winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards in Oliver, B.C., says if producers took care of the fruit early in the season, they reaped the rewards.
“The fruit came in pristine,” he says. “The Syrah and Malbec are particularly special this year. They have an elegant power, and I am really looking forward to seeing how they turn out in barrel.”
Kim Gorman (OEVC ’07), Assistant Winemaker at Domaine de Grand Pré in Nova Scotia, says the 2022 growing season in the Annapolis Valley was quite warm and humid prior to Hurricane Fiona, and then the weather became unpredictable.
“Although we lost some volume due to rot, considering the humidity and the hurricane, we made out pretty well,” she says. “I think our Marquette is going to be lovely this year, it came in quite ripe and flavourful.”
In Niagara, Gabriel Demarco (BSc ’13) of Cave Spring Vineyard says despite the winter damage which affected the size of the crop, the fruit quality was exceptional.
“We had some dry conditions but a nice amount of rain and timely as well. When we were just getting into drought stress, we got a bit of precipitation,” he says. “We had a beautiful harvest window and we picked some of the best Riesling in the history of our company this year. It’s exceptional stuff.”
Vintage variation plays a significant role in Canada’s cool climate wine regions, where vineyards are situated between 30- and 50-degrees latitude north. Though this may be a deterrent for some, Demarco not only embraces said variability, it’s part of why he chose to make wine in Niagara.
“I love that challenge of the variability of each vintage and the precision that is required to follow the grapes from bud break all the way to the finish — understanding what the vines are going through and then adjusting your approach in order to maximize any given season,” he says.
Gorman says the hands-on experience she had during the Certificate in Grape and Wine Technology (OEVC) program in both vineyards and the teaching winery at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) was invaluable.
“Brock offered a much more scientific, in-depth approach to the ‘why’ of how things happen during winemaking,” she says. “Knowing the ‘why’ behind certain actions allows me to adapt to different conditions, since every year is always a little different.”
With family from the east coast, Gorman felt Nova Scotia was a natural fit.
“I love that the industry here is about where the Niagara wine industry was when I was growing up,” she says. “Now, I get to experience the innovation and growth of a wine industry from this side of it and it’s very exciting.”
Robinson, who was a pre-medical student before pivoting to winemaking, says the OEVI program helped fulfil both his scientific and artistic sides.
“Brock gives you the analytical and scientific tools to draw on, so that you can troubleshoot and trust your palate,” he says. “It gives you the knowledge to assess anything that is going on in the vintage, whether it is in the vineyard or winery.”
Prior to his career in winemaking, Robinson was a sommelier in fine-dining restaurants, giving him a unique perspective on blending and refining his wines from berry to bottle.
“Tasting as a sommelier versus tasting as a winemaker is a completely different skill set, but it’s similar enough that you can adapt it very quickly,” he says. “It’s just a different hat, is the best way of putting it, instead of assessing wine for ageability, you’re assessing whether there’s anything that’s kind of going sideways that needs to be stick handled or analyzed.”
For more information on grape and wine undergraduate degrees (OEVI and OEVC) and CCOVI programming, visit ccovi.ca