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Summerland wineries optimistic despite hot, smoky year

‘It could be a stellar vintage’
Smoke forms a layer of haze above a vineyard in Summerland. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

This year’s active wildfire season and early-summer heat wave are presenting challenges to wineries and vineyard managers. However, the president of Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive beverage producers remains positive about this year’s wines.

“There’s some good optimism around this vintage,” said Cameron Walker, president of Bottleneck Drive and general manager of Lunessence Winery and Vineyard. “It could be a stellar vintage.”

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He said this year so far seems similar to 2018, the worst wildfire season in British Columbia’s history. During that year, smoke was present in the air during the summer and there were many days with poor air quality.

The effects of the smoke will vary depending on the proximity of a vineyard to the fires.

“If you’ve got a vineyard next to a burning wildfire, it’s more susceptible to smoke taint,” he said. He added that the 2018 wildfire season did not have smoke taint in the wines from Summerland’s wineries.

As for the record-breaking heat in late June, with the temperature reaching 44.7 C on June 30, Walker said it was better the extreme temperatures occurred early in the growing season.

Vines would be far more susceptible to damage from heat if extreme weather were to come in late August, when the grapes are ripening on the vines. During temperatures above 40 C, vines can shut down temporarily and their fruit can experience sunburn.

For some fruit growers, with fruit ripening much earlier than the ripening time for grapes, the season has been more challenging.

Walker added the extreme heat lasted for a relatively short period of time.

In addition, he said the conditions this year will not necessarily be repeated next year. Both 2019 and 2020 were light fire seasons and not defined by the smoky skies that were seen in 2017 and 2018.

Even in this season, the weather could change and the region could soon experience blue skies again, he said.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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