Niagara wine

And so it begins … Henry of Pelham kicked off harvest in Niagara with the first hand-picked Pinot Noir for its sparkling program coming off the wine early Thursday.

Note: Wines In Niagara cannot confirm that Henry of Pelham is the first to start harvesting in Niagara, but it is the only winery we know officially that has begun picking.

Ontario wine

It’s a special vintage for Henry of Pelham, which is celebrating its 30th harvest.

“Following an above-average hot, dry summer, we are excited about the exceptional levels of ripeness and concentration of this year’s fruit. The combination of prolonged heat waves and intermittent rainfalls has yielded a crop average in terms of size, but outstanding in quality,” said Matthew Speck, senior vice-president of operations/vineyards. 

“Overall it has been a perfect year, with a slightly later spring bud break eliminating the risk of frost, and no severe rainfall events. These are ideal conditions for all of our varietals, but particularly the reds.” 

This year’s start follows the average timeline, beginning with Pinot Noir, followed by Chardonnay for the Cuvée Catharine sparkling wines. Baco Noir and rosé grapes will be harvested during their typical time frames. The harvest will continue through the end of October, and into November, when later season Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are ready for picking.

Henry of Pelham’s optimism for the vintage is being echoed at wineries across the region.

Touring the Bo-Teek Vineyard at Vineland Estate last week, on the Twenty Mile Bench with winemaker Brian Schmidt (and his pup Shadow), he, too, is excited about the high quality of the grapes.

Schmidt said if everything stays dry through harvest, 2018 could prove better than 2016, a banner year for wines in Niagara, especially reds.

Vineland wasn’t quite ready to pick when I was there last week, but the grapes right off the vine showed amazing flavours already at this stage.

Expect an explosion of harvesting beginning this weekend as the race to the finish line begins in earnest.