News from Poplar Grove
In the next week, we will be harvesting Pinot Gris from our Haynes Creek, Skaha Bench and Naramata Bench vineyards. We are very excited as this is our largest crop of Pinot Gris to date due to the 22-acre expansion planted by the Holler family over the last 2.5 years. While walking the vineyards this morning, we noticed more genetic variation in the grapes than prior years. This variation is known as chimera mutation. Chimera mutation demonstrates the relationship between all Pinot varieties - Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir and because of the natural ebb and flow of the vineyard, we are becoming more aware of it.
From our experience, the chimera mutation is seen to mutate Pinot Gris to Pinot Blanc in a hotter, drier climate whereas in cooler temperate soils the Pinot Gris mutates to Pinot Noir. In the first photo, we have one bunch that is mostly Pinot Gris but has partially mutated back to Pinot Blanc. On the right side of the cluster, you can see one grape that is half of each. The reasoning for this is still being discovered, what we know from our vineyards is that these genetic mutations happen because of the interaction between soil, temperature (both hot and cold), aspect, and overall stress on the vine. The second photo shows each varietal starting from left to right – Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.
Does this mean that the Poplar Grove Pinot Gris is not a single varietal wine?
Less than 2% of our plants are affected and the mutation does not compromise any overall flavour or quality. We do like to think that this makes our Pinot Gris just a little extra special as we believe in embracing the natural ebb and flow rather than fighting the natural happenings in our vineyards.
We have had a slow but great start to September in the vineyards. The daily temperatures of above 30° and cool night time temperatures these past few weeks has helped enable fruit development to thrive and make up for time lost from a cold spring. At this time, our vines have stopped growing and are now focused on ripening fruit for a harvest. During this time, water stressing the vineyards is crucial.
If watered too much, the vine will suck up every drop and the berry will grow bigger bearing low quality, diluted fruit. By being diligent in the vineyard, water stressing forces the vine to dig deeper into the soil to find the water it needs.This, combined with limited drip irrigation, allows for more concentrated flavours and overall better fruit quality.
Birds can eat an estimated 10% of the wine crop here in British Columbia. Our Crew is currently working hard to put out netting in our starling prone vineyards to avoid losing too much of our crops. In addition to birds, our bear friends enjoy our grapes as well. Where possible, our crew has installed bear fencing to ensure the berries are protected.
The team is busy preparing for harvest in three weeks. We are expecting our Pinot Gris to start at the end of September and from there, we will be picking nonstop until the first week of November. The last fruit to be harvested is always our Osoyoos Cabernet Sauvignon and Munson Mountain Cabernet Franc. We are looking forward to another great harvest.
Mother Nature plays a big part in what we drink. Here’s what she’s been up to in our vineyards: Crush 2018 concluded on November 15th and will go down as one of the less tumultuous on record, with a nice steady stream of fruit coming into the winery at peak ripeness. Our picking crews started way back on September 18th and harvest in our estate vineyards stretched out over 58 days, with 40 actual picking days.
Here’s our report:
The weather in the Okanagan was favourable for most of the 2018 season, beginning with a mild spring. Budburst was 2-3 weeks later than normal, but the continuing mild weather trend allowed for uniform flowering, which paved the way for balanced cluster development. A typical Okanagan summer (hot and dry) tested our vineyard crews who had to pay careful attention to irrigation regimes and leaf-to-fruit-ratios. Once again, meticulous farming and careful yield management has delivered exceptional wine quality.
In September temperatures cooled to below normal, especially at night. But as the saying goes, “the sun always finds a hole in the clouds over the Okanagan” and, by the time harvest commenced we had recorded enough warm, sunny days to match long-term average heat summation levels. More favourable weather marked a rare “Golden October” and provided a long, unpressured harvest period which continued into the first couple of weeks of November.
According to winemaker, Stefan Arnason, “The steady pace of our 2018 growing season yielded balanced wines; the cool nights and warm days over an extended period preserved acidity and develped wonderful phenolic ripeness and flavour complexity.”