Question: What about 2023 Spring frosts in North American vineyards?
Answer: Yes, frost is becoming an increasingly difficult issue almost everywhere for grape growing vineyards. Earlier bud break and shoot growth makes the vines more susceptible than before to dangerous Spring frost-freezing damage. Check out the last decade in Chablis. Losses vary a lot by individual vineyard sites but at least grape vines are able to produce a second bloom compared to fruit trees – like apple & peach – which can’t. The month of May saw widespread frost damage in the Eastern regions of North America with New York Finger Lakes very badly hit with obviously a much reduced anticipated wine production for 2023. Continue to monitor the results. Another important freezing concern is extremely cold winter temperatures that affect the production of the vines. Winemaker Severine Pinte & Managing Partner Rasoul Salehi of Le Vieux Pin & La Stella in the South Okanagan tell me that their impressive Syrah vines have been very badly affected by the extremely cold prolonged winter temperatures with up to nearly 100% loss for 2023. They may have to diversify further in the future to include hardier grape varieties. Worrisome.
Wonderful initiative by the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver to bring together 6 recently recognized Michelin Guide restaurant chefs to celebrate their innovative cooking styles. They previewed this Pac Rim Pop-Up Patio feature to the media on May 24 and it will be launched on 4 consecutive days for each one spread over the next 3 months. Well worth checking out!
JUNE 1 – 4: PUBLISHED ON MAIN (CHEF GUS STIEFFENHOFER-BRANDSON) PORK SCHNITZEL SANDO
JUNE 15 – 18: BURDOCK & CO (CHEF ANDREA CARLSON) WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH DUNGENESS CRAB & SHRIMP, ELDERBERRY SABAYON
JUNE 29 – JULY 2: ANH AND CHI (CHEF LY NGUYEN & CHEF VINCENT NGUYEN) VERMICELLI BOWL CHARGRILLED TWO RIVERS PORK, CRISPY SPRING ROLL, PICKLED DAIKON & CARROTS, ROASTED PEANUTS, VIETNAMESE HERBS, CHILI FISH SAUCE
JULY 13 – JULY 16: BOTANIST IN FAIRMONT PACIFIC RIM (CHEF HECTOR LAGUNA) CHARRED SCALLOP CEVICHE WITH RHUBARB, ELDERFLOWER, FERMENTED JALAPENO
AUGUST 10 -13: L’ABATTOIR (CHEF LEE COOPER) STEAK & OYSTER TARTARE STICKY RICE, FRIED SHISO, SESAME
AUGUST 24 -27: BACARO (CHEF MICHAEL ZAFIRIAN) DUCK RAVIOLI PICKLED PEARL ONIONS, PECORINO CHEESE, ONION & DUCK JUS
As well as the featured chef dishes the popular patio concept includes the innovative food truck on site of Fairmont Pac Rim Executive Chef Damon Campbell with fresh Summer menu selections for outdoor dining. Creative Beverage Director Grant Sceney also has assembled a well-chosen variety of craft beers, wines, and cocktails. Enjoyable fun concept!
Answer: Just tasted at Top Drop Vancouver 2023 a delicious Riesling specifically crafted to pair well with Thai food. The wine is named “The Riesling Project” from the 2022 vintage. It is the inspiration of Chef Angus An, proprietor of Maenam restaurant (outstanding Thai cuisine), Sommelier Kurtis Kolt, and two RIesling devotee winemakers contributing fruit while working together to realize the dream – David Paterson of Tantalus Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley & John Weber of Orofino in the Similkameen. The result is a Riesling well described on the back label as “a dry-ish multi-layered, juicy wine loaded with charisma … to be a pitch-perfect match for Thai cuisine”. Well done!
Last week @WinesofBC held their annual Media Preview of Vintage 2022 for #BCWine. An excellent panel of winemakers from across BC presented a detailed look with a representative tasting. Some encouraging wine examples were shown by the ripe enough yet still fresh balanced 2022 year. It confirmed the earlier Vintage Report released by @WineGrowersBC of average to above-average yields from a cool early start to a warm sunny harvest. When you look at our esteemed IWFS Vintage Card ratings you will note that the top 7/7 ratings are given to only 2020, 2016, and 2014 followed by 6/7 for 2018, 2017, 2015, 2013, and 2012. Too early yet for their 2022 score. In my humble opinion, our summary Chart as expected doesn’t tell the full story of many diverse vintages across geographically widely separated wine regions. Lots of variation by region and especially by producer. There is a more interesting breakdown Chart attached at WineBC.com by Wine Growers British Columbia divided into helpful categories of Temperatures, Rainfall, and Crop Yields. Let’s take a closer look:
Cooler: 2010, 2011, 2019 – lighter less ripe higher acidity but aging well Moderate: 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022 – better balance structure Hot: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2021 – richer riper softer fruit
Low: 2010, 2019, 2020, 2021 – three shorter crops in a row before 2022 Average: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2022 High: 2016, 2018
Another outstanding report worth studying has been prepared by LE VIEUX PIN WINERY assessing vintages in the South Okanagan from 2022 back to 2005. October 2022 was “one of the few warmest Octobers on record”. Admire their point that “Some vintages are all about grace, while others favour power and of course, there are ones where they showcase that fine balance of grace and power.” They note the Growing Degree Days with 2015 at 1764 (just behind hottest years 1998 & 2003) plus most helpful vintage style and when to drink information. Recommended.
You will be pleased to know that some older wines served at the Media Preview Reception showed very well. Especially noteworthy were balanced 2020 Chardonnay from O’Rourke Family Estate, elegant pure 2020 Pinot Noir from Blue Grouse Estate Winery, and ripe Similkameen fruit in 2014 Meritage Vanessa Vineyard. Vintages matter! For sure, climate change (2021 heat dome in BC) plus increasing wildfire smoke damage (Blue Mountain Vineyard decided not to bottle any 2021 vintage due to grape contamination) are becoming more important factors in all bottled wines. Caveat emptor. Your scribe’s current advice is to remain open-minded about your vintage assessments for British Columbia wines – as well as those from other regions around the world!
Answer: Most producers in these enlightened times are looking to use lighter glass bottles or other suitable wine containers with an environmental advantage in presenting a better sustainable lower carbon footprint, Yes, boxed wines are improved and no longer just for the cheapest wines. They are attempting to move up-market. An interesting article by Eric Asimov in his weekly The Pour of the May 10 issue of the NY Times “Thinking Inside the Box for Quality Wines” spotlights ten choices. One is a 3-liter choice from California at $72 (about $18/bottle) for Ryme Cellars Mendocino Fox Hill Vineyard Sangiovese-Friulano 2020. Check out some of the producers brought into your local markets who are now putting some of their better-quality wine into boxes! What do you think about them?