Source: St Catharines Standard, September, 2012
While heavy rains this month set back harvest, predictions of a top-quality season for grapes are coming to fruition.
“I think winemakers and growers are pleased on both fronts,” said Trevor Falk, co-owner of Lakeview Harvesters in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “Not only the quality, but also for a decent yield considering we had a very dry, hot summer.”
Falk said picking at his Lakeshore Rd. area vineyards is 15% to 20% complete. His white grapes – varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer –are average to above average, he said.
“Where we’re really going to see the benefit is when we see some of the red vinifera varieties,” he said. “They seem to really benefit from hot and dry even more than the whites do.”
As for the rain, “I think grape growers in this area are used to the fall inclement area.”
Falk said sodden days make growers and winemakers work harder to ensure fruit is clean of rot or volatile acid levels that are too high.
Kevin Ker, a grape and tender fruit specialist with a wide exposure to Niagara crop conditions, said Falk’s general observations are borne out elsewhere.
“The biggest issue with the rains has been scheduling, it means a few delays,” Ker said, adding most growers are about 25% to 50% done harvesting.
This year’s harvest comes about two weeks earlier than usual, with most of the fall reds likely to be off by the third week of October.
Otherwise, crops are holding out well, with some rot reported. The quality is quite high, Ker said, with Pinot Noir doing especially well.
He said the reds like Merlot “are also maturing extremely well and have a lot of potential.”
Grape Growers of Ontario CEO Debbie Zimmerman added to the chorus of sweet news on the grape front.
That said, there has been a bit of a gap this summer between the picking of the early whites and the reds.
“Nothing serious,” she said.
“It’s all timing…the crop looks really good.”