The 2016 growing season had a unique progression in comparison to other recent vintages. The warm spring – with aggregate temperatures nearly double any other spring on record at the winery – resulted in earlier than average budbreak. However, those who visited the Okanagan may remember a moderate summer that didn’t call out for the beach like previous years.
The result was a long growing season with ample opportunity to ripen fruit at a slow, gradual pace. Although valley floor vineyards were hit by frost on October 14th, our location on the Golden Mile Bench allowed for long hangtimes into early November. Cold air acts similar to water, and so simply flowed off the mountainside. This was especially important for later ripening red varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, to achieve optimal ripeness.
The result to date, according to Jean-Marc, is impeccably balanced reds: intense flavours, ripe tannins, bright acids, and moderate potential alcohol levels. The wines are more red-fruited (think fresh raspberries) with a real sense of vibrancy. In short, we are very enthusiastic about the quality of this vintage.
So, where are we in terms of our red vintage? The Merlot lots have now been pressed, and are starting malolactic fermentation. This is done on a barrel-by-barrel basis – a more time consuming process, but one that allows for better oak integration. The aim is for the fruit to sit above the oak, not the other way around.
Most of the Cabernet Franc lots have now just finished primary fermentation and are undergoing an extended maceration on the skins. The result is counter-intuitive: you would think the longer the wine is in contact with the skins, the more tannic it will become. In fact, the tannins begin to polymerize, resulting in wines with depth and plush, velvety tannins. This can take as long as 24 days, with Jean-Marc tasting each lot on a daily basis to decide when to finally press off.
The last blocks to be picked, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, have nearly finished fermentation. These lots are already inky purple in colour, with terrific varietal definition. As Jean-Marc says, “The Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon.” It’s not surprising that Pascal says that Cabernet Sauvignon is one of his favourite varieties off of the estate.
Jean-Marc: “And now we just need to wait.”