One of the key pieces to sustainability in the vineyard is our use of composting. Typically a large amount of compost material arrives in the spring, where it is windrowed and left to decompose over 1-2 years before it is spread throughout the vineyard. We are always looking for ways to improve our farming practice and connection with this land. Happy Earth Day, and please enjoy this video of Ian explaining our wonderful compost heap.
There was a lot of talk about the weather in 2015! Record breaking snowfalls in January gave way to an early spring here in the Okanagan, with bud break occurring around April 7, which is roughly two weeks ahead of a normal year according to our winemaker Matt Mavety.
Flowering of the vines continued the two week advance trend, followed by a warmer than average growing season that pushed the start of harvest up the calendar by about 3 weeks. This year we started the harvest on August 13, 2015, picking Pinot Noir for sparkling wine. To give this some context, we would normally start harvesting the same grape around September 5-7.
Cooler weather at the end of August and early September was actually a blessing, and allowed for good maturity and preservation of acidity, and hence the minerality of the wines. The generally hot weather through spring and early summer did create some challenges for our cool climate varietals; however, we were able to select the best harvest dates to preserve the freshness of the fruit and manage the alcohol level in the wines.
With the 2015 vintage in the barrel, so to speak, the pace at the vineyard has slowed back to normal as we maintain and prepare the vineyard for winter...and maybe find some time to start waxing our skis!
Cheers from the Okanagan!
The Mavety Family
Gamay Noir cluster about to be harvested.
Our favourite crew from Mexico back with us for another harvest. These guys are like family now!
Chardonnay ready for the press.
Vineyard Manager Ernst working the tractor.
As the evenings come, there are always plenty of grapes to be processed.
It's like grape bin Tetris sometimes as we shuffle everything around the vineyard during harvest.
End of a day in the vineyard and the tractor is put to rest.
Chef Chris VanHooydonk joined us for our 2015 Harvest Celebration Dinner.
Our wonderful guests for this year's Harvest Celebration Dinner.
Pinot Noir grapes waiting to be destemmed and pressed while the 2014 vintage looks on from the barrels.
Winemaker Matt working the destemmer.
Jean-Marie putting the Pinot Noir into the tank.
Elodie joins us from France for this harvest.
There is no job too small during harvest! Ian Mavety helps with the bins while Matt "supervises."
Photos by Chris Stenberg
Pinot Noir is one of the wines we are most well-known for at Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars. We produce two tiers of Pinot Noir: the Estate Pinot Noir, which we normally release at the end of February and the Reserve Pinot Noir (formerly Stripe Label), which we normally release at the end of April. We also produce the Reserve Pinot Noir in Magnum format (1.5L). Be sure to join our mailing list to be notified of these wine releases.
Viticulture and Vinification:
The grapes for our Pinot Noir are grown on 8 to 30 year old vines with a wide selection of clones including 113, 114, 115, 375, 667 & 777 (see the map below for the location of the clones on the farm).
The winemaking process
We de-stem and lightly crush the grapes into open-topped fermentation tanks, with a small portion of whole clusters adding to the intensity of the flavour and enhance the mouth feel. During the 16-20 days' maceration period, we practice manual cap management, with punch downs twice and up to three times daily. We then drain and press the Pinot Noir into French oak barrels, where it remains for 10 months.
In 2013 100% of the vintage got fermented with wild yeast. Wild yeast fermentations starts by itself when wild yeast strains – originating in the vineyard / site (harvest equipment, transport bins, the surface winemaking equipment) - start fermenting. Wild yeast can take up to a week to begin the fermentation because their initial populations are small compared to an inoculated fermentation. Using Wild Yeast is a very risky process, but our winemaker, Matt has done a lot of experimenting and have found great success using wild yeast. This helps to express the unique terrior of our estate.
Winemakers Notes: Estate Pinot Noir
Light garnet colour with red and black fruit. Vanilla and toast complement cassis and black cherry flavours, and spicy, velvety tannins fill out the Pinot Noir. Its balanced structure will allow the wine to age for 6 to 7 years.
Winemakers Notes: Reserve Pinot Noir
The Reserve Pinot Noir is a rich, ruby-coloured wine complex layers of red fruit, spice and integrated oak. The wine could age 7 to 8 years.
In 2013, Blue Mountain re-packaged their Estate wines. Wanting to focus more on being 100% Estate grown the new labels reflect the importance of place celebrating the extraordinary view from Blue Mountain facing south down the Okanagan Valley towards McIntyre Bluff. These wines were formerly called cream label and are now called Estate wines. In 2014, the first of the Reserve wine re-packaging will be introduced. These are the former Stripe Label wines.
The Reserve wines are made from the following process. There are 10 to 13 lots of Reserve Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown on site, each with its own unique make up of clones and clone combinations. Each lot is harvested separately and then aged in either barrel or tank seperately. The wine produced from these individual lots are then tasted blind and 2 or 3 lots are chosen that become the Reserve Wine. The blend of those 2 or 3 lots is then tasted against back vintages of Blue Mountain wines to maintain consistency. The wines are then aged for an additional year and a half in French Oak Barrels before they are released giving them greater complexity, structure and ageablility.
Here are the labels you may be familiar with alongside their new replacements.
Cream Label is now known as Estate Wines:
Stripe Label is now known as Reserve Wines:
Time Lapse of the vineyard at Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars looking south over McIntyre Bluff. Created by our 2013 Tasting Room Intern, David Schafer.
The Blue Mountain tasting room is open May - October, 7 days a week from 11am - 5pm.
Tasting room hours:
Monday - Sunday 11:00am - 5:00pm
Approximately 100 Bighorn Sheep spend the spring in the Vaseax Lake area and many are found on the slopes and the grassy areas along the drive to Blue Mountain winery. They are a recovering herd that has bounced back after a pneumonia epidemic that reduced populations throughout the Okanagan in the late 90's. Known for their large curling horns and the charging they do during mating season these majestic beauties are placid herbivores that live 6 - 15 years.
These are all images of our resident Big Horn sheep here at Blue Mountain. Should you get any great pictures of the sheep on your way to visit us please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try and post them on our facebook page. To help you identify what you are seeing, here is a sketch of the various horn shapes as the sheep age.
Classification diagram for Bighorn Sheep from Geist 1971 (Mountain Sheep: a study in behaviour and evolution)
For more information: South Okanagan Bighorn Sheep Inventory 2013
A big thank you to Aaron Reid, R. P. Bio Wildlife Biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations.
Today we welcome back our Mexican vineyard workers. At Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars we have ten Mexican vineyard workers that come to the Okanagan through Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. They work our 80 acre vineyard for eight months of the year. The first group of six arrived on Tuesday, February 25th and four more will arrive later this month. This hardworking team of vineyard workers has been coming to the Okanagan to work at Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars for the past 6 years. The Mexican crew has made an impact with their highly efficient and skilled viticulture techniques.
Javier Lopez, From: Puebla Antonino Mayoral, From: Oaxaca
Alfredo Calderon, From: Estada de Mexico Cirilo Jaramillo, From: Guanajuato
Lucas Garcia, From: Veracruz de Ignacio Valente Acosta, From: Puebla
Jose Perez, From: Yucatan Paulino Augulo, From: Baja California Sur
Alfonso Galindo, From: Estado de Mexico Juan Bedolla, From: Guanajuato
Thanks to all our vineyard crew for making our 80 acres look so spectacular all year long. Blue Mountain visitors, feel free to wave to these friendly faces with the big hats when you pass them on your way to the wine shop this summer.
Wine touring has become a popular past time here in the Okanagan Valley, and with that has come the rise of a number of wine touring companies offering a ride to wine lovers around the valley.
We've compiled a list of some of the tour groups that we've seen come through the winery over the summer. Now if only we could get out of the tasting room and out into the vineyards to visit some of our neighbours.
- Top Cat Tours
- Okanagan Wine Shuttle
- Uncorked Okanagan
- Okanagan Wine Country Tours
- Grape Escapes
- Wine Your Way
- Desert Country Wine Tours
- Grape Friends Lounge & Tours
- Wine Tours Gone South
- Sunshine and Wine Tours
- Experience Wine Tours
And of course if you want to do it in style you can always travel by helicopter.
However you do decide to see the wineries of the Okanagan, please be sure to arrange for safe transport, and be sure to drink some water along the way. We look forward to seeing you in OK Falls!
Lots is happening in the vineyards at Blue Mountain, Okanagan Falls during this time of year. Days are consistently warm and the grapes are going through a process called veraison.
Véraison is a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning "the onset of ripening". It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is "change of color of the grape berries." Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison.
Pinot Noir clusters proceeding through the ripening process.
If you get a chance to visit the wineries in the Okanagan during mid to late August see if you can spot the transformation taking place in the vineyards.
Before long we will be harvesting these beautiful globes and making the 2013 vintage of the wine you love!
by Catherine Dale, Queens University
As you drive along Allendale Road towards Blue Mountain, you may notice small wooden boxes on many of the fence posts. These boxes have been set up to provide nesting sites for our local bluebirds – and Blue Mountain has over 100 of them scattered throughout the vineyard! These nest boxes are home to the two species of bluebird found in British Columbia: Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana), which are royal blue with a rusty breast, and Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia currucoides), which are a brighter blue with a light blue breast.
Western Blue Bird Mountain Blue Bird
During the spring and summer, it is common to see these beautiful birds perched on top of the boxes, or popping in and out of them with material to build their nests or food for their nestlings. Both Mountain and Western Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters – meaning that they nest within holes in trees, but they are unable to create their own their own holes, and depend on those created and abandoned by other species (such as woodpeckers).
During the early and mid 20th century, landscape changes – largely caused by humans – resulted in a decrease in the number of cavities available for bluebirds. Partly due to the limited availability of nesting sites, bluebird populations began to decline. In response, concerned citizens set up trails of nest boxes like the one you see here. Today, most bluebird populations are stable – and here in the Okanagan, the Western Bluebird population appears to be growing.
Many of the vineyards in the Okanagan have put up at least a few bluebird boxes (although most don’t have as many as Blue Mountain!). Vineyards are excellent spots for these boxes because of the bluebirds’ diet and foraging strategies. During the summer months, they feed almost exclusively on insects – making them a useful tenant in vineyards. To catch their food, they perch where they can see the ground clearly and look for their prey. If you spend some time watching one of the bluebirds at Blue Mountain, you will notice that it spends much of its time perched on a vine or a fence post, dropping down occasionally to the ground to catch an insect. Unlike many other birds, bluebirds are also quite tolerant of human activity around their nests.
Although not all of Blue Mountain’s many bluebird boxes are occupied in any given summer, the vineyard is home to a large breeding population of Western Bluebirds and a smaller breeding population of Mountain Bluebirds. During the summer of 2012, over 25 Western Bluebird pairs nested in the vineyard, producing more than 150 eggs in total and fledging over 75 nestlings successfully. Two pairs of Mountain Bluebirds also chose to nest at Blue Mountain. Each pair had two successful nests over the course of the summer, and together they produced 12 fledglings.
Besides the bluebirds, several other native species can be found nesting in bluebird boxes. At Blue Mountain, the boxes are often home to Tree Swallows and House Wrens. Other possible inhabitants include Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees and Red-Breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches.
So as you pass through the vineyard on your way to the tasting room, make sure to keep your eyes open to catch a glimpse of some of Blue Mountain’s smallest inhabitants!
Note: For the past few years we have been fortunate to have graduate students from Queens University who study our bluebird populations, monitor the nest boxes throughout the season, recording important data such as nesting periods, numbers and dates of eggs, hatchlings and fledglings. Catherine Dale is a Queens University student. She is pleased to report that the bluebird numbers are rebounding and although still at risk are certainly seeing improvements over a few years ago when their studies first started. Thanks to the students at Queens University who have studied the bluebirds at Blue Mountain.
For more information on bluebirds in the southern interior http://www.bcbluebirds.org/SIBTS/Welcome.html