It’s that time of year again… Niagara Wine Festival is around the corner! Nothing says Fall like sipping wine on a crisp evening in Montebello Park in St. Catharines during wine fest. I love it and have been every year since I was a kid… well not the wine part of course… but to Grape and Wine festivities — like the parade. I remember putting out blankets and lawn chairs with my family downtown super early when I was a kid to get a good spot to watch the floats go by.
And Niagara Wine Festival means grape harvest time! Recently I was at Vineland Estates for a tasting with some family visiting from England. Lucky for us, winemaker Brian Schmidt and his crew were out on the crush pad.
They were bringing in Riesling grapes — my favourite varietal and if you haven’t tried the Rieslings at Vineland Estates you MUST! Delicious! We watched the harvester dump a huge lot of them into the press (check out the picture below). It was pretty awsome to watch and let me tell you there’s a lot of sweat and muscle that goes into it!
The juice that is pressed from the grapes is pretty murky and brown looking (the glass on the right). We drank it and it’s almost like apple cider. After a few days it looks more like wine, just a bit cloudier (the glass on the left, 2 days after being pressed).
Harvest is a few weeks early this year because of the hot, dry summer we had. The lack of rain had many growers and winemakers watering and worrying about crop damage. Vineland Estates had 3 people watering, by hand, every day since the end of June to make sure none of the younger vines suffered.
That wasn’t the only challenge this year. You’ll remember the summer-like conditions in March which caused a lot of the buds and leaves to come out on the vines. That had a lot of growers worrying and running wind machines to make sure there was no frost damage. But despite these challenges, it looks like it’s going to be a great year. The fruit is much smaller and the crop size is down about 25-30% but I’m told the quality should be exceptional — more sugars and more concentrated flavours (my mouth is watering already).
Make sure you check out the Niagara Wine Fesitval at the end of the month. There is so much going on, both at the park and at the wineries, and it’s a great opportunity to sample and learn about different wines. For more info check out the Niagara Wine Festival website.