VQA releases vintage report: 2010 a very good year

Vineland Estate winemaker Brian Schmidt checks the 2010 crop.

Note: VQA Ontario released its Vintage Report 2010. As expected, 2010 was a very good year. Here is the report.


Winter and early spring were relatively mild and dry throughout southern Ontario in 2010.

Precipitation, both snow and rain, was slightly lower than normal and average temperatures a bit above normal. Bud burst was about two weeks early in all the wine growing regions, mid April in the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island and early May in Prince Edward County. Despite the prevailing warm conditions, Prince Edward County was hit with frost in mid May, resulting in some bud damage but without widespread ill effects.

Vineland Estate winemaker Brian Schmidt checks the 2010 crop.
Vineland Estate winemaker Brian Schmidt checks the 2010 crop.

May was warm and summery with mean temperatures hovering 2° to 3° above normal and a number of high temperature records broken. Early season growth was rapid and healthy. Despite the heat, there was relatively little severe weather.

June saw normal temperatures, higher precipitation and severe weather including four tornadoes in the Lake Erie North Shore appellation at the start and end of the month. Fortunately, for the grape crop, no vineyards sustained any lasting damage.

Severe thunderstorms continued into early July for Lake Erie North Shore but on balance the July weather was hot, sunny and perfect for maturing grapes. Some heavy downpours left enough moisture to cause slight disease pressure in a few locations but generally rain came in healthy amounts and there was lots of sunshine hours to fuel growth. August was warmer and drier than normal in all regions, and included a record low precipitation for Lake Erie North Shore.

Conditions could not have been more perfect for ripening grapes and winemakers were very excited about quality prospects heading into harvest.


Thanks to the warm season, the grape harvest began approximately two weeks early with sparkling wine grapes harvested in late August. Warm dry conditions in September were ideal and allowed winemakers maximum flexibility to choose the best time for harvest. Consensus reigned in all regions that the 2010 vintage has tremendous potential for all varieties and that it would be a particularly promising year for the longer ripening varieties that are sometimes challenged by Ontario’s climate.

Temperatures cooled gradually into October with a smooth transition from the summer heat to warm days and cool nights and then to cooler mid-teen temperatures by late October. The first frost came in early October for Prince Edward County and some of the cooler sub-appellations in Niagara and gradually over the next two weeks for the remaining appellations. Harvest for table wines was substantially completed by mid October.

Preliminary registrations for Icewine and Late Harvest grapes show that production will remain similar to 2009 and substantially lower than the records near 7000 tonnes set through 2006 and 2007. Subject to audit verification, a total of 1560 tonnes have been left hanging for use in Icewine and Late Harvest wines for the 2010 vintage.

Wine Expectations

2010 should be a great vintage, possibly the best of the decade. All of the conditions aligned favourably for this growing season and there were virtually no negative impact from Mother Nature. Look for wines that express the maturity and balance of the 2010 season and show all that the developing terroirs of Ontario’s appellations are capable of. Every variety has an opportunity to show well this year.