2022 Growing Season & Harvest

2022 Growing Season & Harvest

[Jon's report below was included in Wines In Niagara 'Ontario Grape Harvest Report 2022' available here.]

The fall of 2021 was very wet, and quickly transitioned into a long and harsh winter that was more than our vinifera vines could manage. Analysis before the growing season showed significant primary bud damage, but we remained hopeful. Budbreak occurred between the first and second week of May despite the fluctuating temperatures in April. With the emergence of new plant tissue, it was evident there was widespread damage throughout the vineyard. Tender varieties like Merlot and Syrah were devastated, retaining suckers was the only thing we could do to mitigate the damage. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon escaped the worst of winter’s effects, but the rest of the vineyard saw significant primary bud failure.

The middle of May brought warm temperatures and moderate spring showers that lasted into June giving our clay soil the water content to take itself through what would become a drought year. By the middle of May we were consistently above 25 C and temperatures never really went above 30 C for the remainder of the season.

A dry summer both in terms of precipitation and humidity, combined with very little cloud cover, gave us an early véraison and fruit with no significant disease pressure going into harvest.

With the memories of 2021 still fresh, we held our breath and waited to see what Labour Day and beyond would bring. Mother Nature was, in the end, very kind to us, giving more of the beautiful weather we had been experiencing. This gave Black Bank Hill the opportunity to play around with pick dates and wine styles. Using only estate fruit with a basket press allows us to be incredibly nimble and process our fruit in a multitude of different ways. As our first official vintage in our new winery, the low yields let us break-in our new equipment and develop our processes and procedures without the typical chaos of harvest.

Everything came off the vine earlier than usual due to the exceptionally low yields and ideal growing conditions. Sugars were skyrocketing, leading to a mere 3-week harvest window between Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon (picked Sept. 24 and Oct. 15 respectively). The fruit was in perfect condition when it arrived at the winery, clusters and berry size were all smaller than normal. Unlike the previous year we found no lady beetles on the sorting table which is likely due to the difference in fruit quality between vintages.

For Black Bank Hill, 2022 allowed us to create wines that have extraordinary concentration and depth of character. In terms of yield, the vintage was full of heartbreak because it was such a stellar growing season. What I think made this one of Niagara’s best vintages was the diurnal temperature variations we experienced particularly from véraison to harvest. This will leave an indelible mark on the 2022 wines, and I look forward to tasting them over the years.

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