While 2020 may have caused misery on many fronts this year, wine lovers will be pleased to know the grape crop in Niagara is about to produce one of the best years for wine in recent history.
“It’s a stellar crop, meaning the quality is through the roof,” said Debbie Zimmerman, President of the Ontario Grape Grower’s Association. “It will be one of the crops of the century and the vintage will be one of the vintages of the century as well.”
Crop of the decade
Zimmerman characterized this year’s grapes as a “crop of the decade” and said some people might even call it a crop of the century.
Ed Madronich, owner of Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan Station, is equally enthusiastic. ” I always hesitate to say it is a great vintage because we say every year is a great vintage, but the stars and sun aligned this year to make one of the most remarkable vintages we have ever seen.”
He said riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes have done especially well in Niagara this year.
Brian Schmidt, Winemaker at Vineland Estates in Vineland, said he always gets excited about each year’s vintage, however, “I have been in this business long enough to see 30 vintage years, and this year is better than I have ever seen.”
The weather during the growing season was optimal during this year, say the experts. “It is because of the long warm days, and then we had the cool nights we needed to create a perfect scenario for a really wonderful crop that the winemakers can turn into phenomenal wine. Everything starts with great grapes,” explained Zimmerman.
Grape growing conditions could not have been better
Schmidt said conditions this year could not have been better. The winter caused very little vine damage. There was early spring with buds forming seven to 10 days earlier. There was lots of groundwater and an early spring readied the earth. “It was the quintessentially perfect vintage from that moment onward,” he said
The stellar grape crop comes at a time when COVID-19 has ravaged the economy in Niagara and almost wiped out the growing tourist traffic that Niagara wineries have come to rely on.
On this, Madronich was circumspect. “Mother Nature has taken away from a health perspective. But from a wine and grape perspective (this year) she was very giving,” he said.
Richard Linley, President of the Ontario Craft Wineries, said he is hearing from a lot of happy winemakers this year. His organization represents small and medium-sized wine producers. He said the amazing grape crop was not just a Niagara phenomenon, but good across the province, including the EPIC wineries on Lake Erie’s North Shore in Windsor-Essex County and also for growers in Prince Edward County, the Ontario wine region east of Toronto out toward Kingston.
Linley said wine drinkers will be able to start to enjoy the remarkable 2020 vintage next spring when the first white wines are uncorked. As for the 2020 reds, wine lovers will get a first taste of them in the fall of 2021, and for years to come as the wine matures.