Let the 2009 Ontario Grape Harvest Begin!

After a nail-biting and sleepless summer of marginal weather for Ontario’s grape growers and winemakers, the 2009 harvest begins!

The 2009 growing season began with a cool, wet spring and Ontarians wondered if summer would ever show its sunny head.  Well, it didn’t.  Temperatures did improve somewhat in August but it still remained very wet.  In the middle of August, I spoke to a winemaker in the Niagara Peninsula who admitted to a few sleepless nights and that perhaps his hair was a bit whiter.

However, when I spoke to winemakers in Prince Edward County during a trip out there in August, I heard a different story.  Many, including James Lahte of Long Dog Vineyard and Winery, were very excited about the 2009 growing season.  They claimed the grapes were healthy and progressing well.

Norman Hardie, of his eponymous winery in Prince Edward County, acknowledged that the County did not receive the rain experienced by the rest of the province, but nevertheless, he green harvested down to less than 750 grams of fruit per vine to ensure ripeness even if the rains did come.

Bill Redelmeier, owner of biodynamic Southbrook Vineyards, told me in September that he wasn’t too worried.  He claims that Southbrook’s meticulous vineyard management practices will help the grapes arrive at excellent ripeness levels with no rot or disease.  I’m sure the near perfect September weather didn’t hurt either.

The province’s only true taste of summer didn’t occur until September when summer holidays were over and the kids were back at school.  September was beautiful and dry and hopefully helped the grapes along.

Norman Hardie has begun to harvest his grapes.  As he said in an email, “It is starting to feel like harvest in Burgundy – pick before the rain.”  With rain in the forecast, he wants to get the grapes in.  And, they appear to be ready.  The grapes are measuring at at least 21.5 brix (better than the great 2007 vintage) with “fantastic phenolic ripeness and the vineyard is botrytis and disease free.”

Let’s hope the rain holds off and the growers and winemakers have the chance to harvest the grapes healthy and ripe.

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