El Nino is taking its final breaths of 2016 but its affect cannot be undone. The warm weather system set off the vineyards of the Saanich Peninsula hitting record April temperatures.
The good news is El Nino spurred a lot of fruit clusters, giving the vineyard a very healthy start to the season.
Climate change, and El Nino, can be worrisome as the grapes of the South Island have been chosen specifically for the climate, even though the vines are drought-resistant. Fortunately, the dangers of El Nino are receding and the summer looks to be a typical one on the South Island, cooler and wetter than the drought-like conditions of 2015.
“Too much heat and it will affect the flavour profile for some grapes, like the Ortega,” said Pat George, co-owner of Symphony Vineyard on Oldfield Road. “The Ortega could ripen in August instead of mid-to-late September.”
The clusters of grapes formed by mid-June, which is early. Not only that, the vines are already being topped, as the canes have reached to the ceiling of their protective canopy (should it need to be rolled out), George said.
Know your leaves. Canopy management is underway at Symphony this year but usually doesn’t take place until later on in July. Leaf stripping brings sun into the fruit clusters as the grapes mature. Vine topping keeps the plants healthy and gives them a “vertical shoot profile.”
On The Vine. Symphony Vineyard is small, with about 6,000 vines on its 4.5 acres of vineyard.
Ortega: A cold climate grape found in Germany, a sweeter wine with body, similar to a Riesling, the Ortega is popular as it is resistant to mildew, likely the greatest threat to vines on the peninsula.
Gewürztraminer: Popular on Vancouver Island. Some say its exotic flavour pairs well with spicy food and therefore many Asian world dishes. Others say it goes with spicy fish and shellfish, while the French drink it with soft, stinky cheese.
Pinot Gris: Another grape well suited to B.C.’s climate, the Pinot Gris works with anything, meat and seafood, garden herbs and fresh garlic and chilli flakes.
Leon Millot: Another grape that ripens in a shorter growing season with a medium body and deep colour. Can bring a nose of berry.
Marechal Foch: Again, the Foch is a cold resistant red, one that grows well in Nova Scotia and Quebec as well as B.C. Brings a deep body.
Pinto Noir: The Burgundy original, Pinot Noir is grown world wide, and express itself differently in each region.
Mechanization. The vineyard is full of temperature gauges logging the data every 30 minutes. Symphony, like the many vineyards in the area, gather the data and over time it gives the vineyard operators a complete picture of how temperature relates to the harvest.