Meet our new vineyard manager Ernst Bruwer. A big Blue Mountain welcome to you. We hope you enjoy your new home.
What made you choose to come to Canada?
I’ve always had a big interest in Canada and the Canadian way of living. When I found out Canada had regions where they grow and make wine I decided I needed to move here as it would be a new and interesting challenge.
What were your perceptions of the Canadian Wine Industry prior to arriving in Canada?
I had heard from people that travelled to the wine regions of Canada many years ago that the wines had a “wild” taste. I was told vineyards were growing a lot of non-vinifera species.
When a winemaker friend of mine moved here he reported back that the industry had changed and that really good quality wines are being made here, also that many varietals of vitis vinifera vines are being planted.
Where are you from and what did you do in your previous position?
I’m from the Western-Cape region of South-Africa from a town called Stanford near the coast. I managed a 62 ha wine farm for Hermanuspietersfontein-vineyards.
Explain your role at Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars.
Vineyard manager. To optimize the soil quality, vine quality and grape quality to in the end have a quality wine.
How did you become interested in wine?
I grew up on a 200 ha wine farm near a town called Worcester in South Africa. You could say it’s in my blood.
Favourite wine region in the world?
Sandies Glen, Walker Bay
Favourite Grape Varietal and why?
Don’t really have a distinct favorite, but if you forced me to answer I would say Sauvignon Blanc. There is a whole lot you can do with it and so many possible end results as a wine.
Favourite grape varietal to grow? Pinotage. It has a medium to vigorous growth and is very easy to manage. If you treat it right you will always have quality grapes every year. Also Chardonnay and Mourvèdre.
What you like best about being in the Okanagan so far?
The people are all very friendly and that has made the transition run smooth. The lakes and nature are new and beautiful.
What you miss most from home besides your family and friends?
Mrs. Balls Chutney, Green coloured Cream soda, Mild winter temperatures and rock & surf fishing.
Favourite wine memory?
Being part of the team that won best Wine in SA from Diners Club International, with a full-bodied Sauvignon blanc with balanced wood integration.
Before the snow arrives, there is work to be done in the vineyard to make sure the vines are ready for the next season. The compost has been building over the hot summer months and is then spread throughout the vines in fall using 2 year old mature compost. A layer of organic fertilizer is also spread throughout the vineyard. This is a feathermeal based fertilizer and provides a slow release of nitrogen and organic matter. Both feed the soil to feed the vine and provide a long term soil fertility building process. The 90 tonnes of pomace created through the harvest are then added to the compost that was started in the spring, to start the two year process of becoming the rich compost that is used to nourish the vines in the coming years.
Hilling up around the vines is also done. This is to protect the graft union, root stock and scion. The scion is the varietal of importance and is typically less cold hardy than the rootstock. Hilling mitigates the cold and is the 1st step in weed management practices. The tractor creates these hills and is part of the mechanical weed control in the vineyard. Allowing us to "plough back" in the spring to unearth the vines. In addition a tractor will pass through the vineyard and do an initial cut or pre- pruning of the vineyard. This reduces the hand labour in pruning by starting to loosen shoots and remove excess shoot length from the wires. By removing shoots the nutrients will move only to the required buds.
Once the snow falls vineyard staff are busy keeping the road to the winery accessible for commercial vehicles and a hectic schedule of clearing and plowing takes place. Charlie looks after the majority of our road and does an excellent job making sure we can all get safely to work. At the same time pruning starts and you can hear the electric pruners buzzing all over the farm. This takes 4 months per year with a small crew. Pruning is very important as is sets the crop potential for the coming season and all the plant work during the growing season. Pruning removes unwanted shoots and only leaves the required amount of buds and thus form the new bearing spurs and shoots for the coming season. For an overview on the processes that make up the overall activity in the vineyard please view /About-Us/A-Year-in-the-Vineyard or view our tour of the vineyard video with Ian Mavety.
Proprietor, Ian Mavety discusses the various sustainable viticulture practices used at Blue Mountain Vineyards in the video above.
- Vineyard layout
- High density plantings
- Sustainable viticulture
- On-farm composting
The booming of propane run air cannons in the vineyard are a sure sign harvest is close to being in full swing. The cannons are used in many vineyards to scare away the birds when the grapes ripen. Some vineyards put nets over their vines to keep the birds out and often that occurs when the wineries are making ice wine as these grapes need to stay on the vines well into the winter. But birds are not the only creatures that love the taste of ripe grapes. Deer can also be very good consumers of grapes if they get loose in a vineyard and our resident black bears can eat up a whole row in very short order. At Blue Mountain we have put an 8ft fence around our vineyards to keep the deer out and as the bears dig under the fencing we have had to electrify the fencing to keep bear damage to a minimum.
All this to protect the 80 acres of grapes we are using to make our wines. In the cellar, Matt and the crew have harvested 68 tonnes of fruit to date. These Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes have been pressed, pumped into tank and then left to sit for 24 hours. This lets any particles settle out. The juice is then racked and inoculated with commercial yeast selected from the Champagne region of France. The majority of this juice will be fermented in tank with only about 10% being barrel fermented in older French oak barrels for approximately 3 months. The portion in barrel is to add complexity to the sparkling wine.
So that completes our sparkling grape harvest. The crew gets a much deserved rest for the next three days and will be ready to go again on Monday when we start harvesting the Sauvignon Blanc for the table wine off of our Horse Thief high density vineyard for our cream label Sauvignon Blanc.
A big Blue Mountain welcome and thank you to Lisa Andrews from Rogers & Co in Toronto, Ontario who is helping us this week with the harvest.
The first Pinot Noir grapes for our Sparkling Wine have been handpicked on this cool September morning by our amazing Mexican crew. And they look beautiful -- clean, evenly ripe, and with the needed acidity for Sparkling Brut.
In the early morning hours on Thursday we started unloading approximately 49 bins of fruit, or 7.8 metric tonnes from our Horse Thief Vineyard planted in 2007. Before we started up the press all the staff gathered for a traditional toast to the new vintage, with sparkling wine of course!
With Charles transporting the fruit from the field, Christoph and Felix running the forklifts, the fruit was fed into our membrane press and whole cluster pressed. The first run juice or Cuvee makes up 75% - 85% of our crush. The berry remains or pomace were returned to our compost pile and the free run juice was put into stainless steel fermenters.
We whole cluster press to get minimal skin contact as these Pinot Noir grapes are destined for our Brut Sparkling Wine. We keep all the fruit separated in these tanks, not only by vineyard, but by different sections within each vineyard, while the grapes ferment. This is to try and best preserve the unique terroir of each site. Matt oversees it all; keeping everything organized by labeling the unique lots of fruit.
After pressing, the juice is pumped into tank to let the solids settle. This clears the juice and prepares it to be racked tomorrow. If you come and visit us, you’ll see our bins of Pinot Noir grapes lined up where our visitors usually park, where they’ll stay nice and cool in the evenings, and be close enough to continue pressing in the early hours of the morning.
Looking ahead this week we will harvest Chardonnay and a small quantity of Pinot Gris all from our Horse Thief Vineyard. These will be used to make up the blend for our NV Brut.
Although it hasn’t been as long of a day as many we will face in the coming weeks, it has been a very exciting first week of vintage! Welcome back to Blue Mountain vintage veterans Charles and Felix, and for first-timer Christoph, who was very much appreciated in the cellar. The Chocolate Chip Cake was delicious and appreciated during the busy day. Thanks Jane! All in all it has been an excellent start to the 2012 Harvest.
To be continued....