The effect of Okanagan Lake

May 31, 2011 at 8:00 AM

 PICT0321.JPGThe first time I saw Okanagan Lake, I was in the backseat of a friend’s SUV, coming off the Coquihalla connector south of Kelowna.  My friends and I were heading towards Penticton for a week long camping trip when my jaw dropped…was I still in Canada?  We left Whistler in the morning…only several hours had passed... no time-zones were crossed to my knowledge.  So how did we get away from the snow-capped Coastal range to these brown, on first-sight, barren hillsides framed by the bluest water and bluest skies I had ever seen?  We continued heading south without stopping, but I knew I would be back.  I had no idea the effect that moment would have on the rest of my life.  Fast forward a BSc. Biochemistry from the University of British Columbia – Okanagan campus, three years in the Okanagan vineyards, four harvests in the cellars of several Okanagan wineries and two published research projects from my undergraduate…I am still here and never say never… never leaving.  I am a desert rat that celebrates the heat of the sun bringing our vines to life in the spring.  I rejoice in the arid, frontier-esque environment putting its fingerprint on our wines as a sense of undiscovered potential each season.  Then each harvest, I come to life as the grapes arrive in bins at the cellar door.  The grapes we worked so hard growing over the summer are turned into the wine that will encapsulate the season for us to remember and celebrate with friends and family over dinners in the years to come. 

I came to appreciate Okanagan Lake as even more than the beautiful vista on first sight when I started work in the vineyards at Quails’ Gate Estate Wineryquails_gate_vineyard.jpg

We started in the vineyards early each morning to avoid the hottest part of the day, but some days the sun seemed merciless as we finished the last hour of our shift.  The lake provided momentary relief from the daily heat as an afternoon breeze would carry the cooler temperature of the water’s surface to us in the vineyard.  The mood would lighten among the crew and conversations would pick up again from across the vine rows as we felt the sting of the sun disappear for the moment.  Recently, I was approached to teach some special interest wine courses through the Continuing Studies Faculty at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, and I found myself talking about the ‘Lake Effect’ of Okanagan Lake.  The Kelowna sub-region is considered the coolest wine producing region of the Okanagan Valley, and its season usually begins at least a week behind the southern sub-regions surrounding  Oliver and Osoyoos.

QG_photos_005.jpg

The lake influences our season in the spring by delaying our bud break and reducing the risk of late frost damage to the tender tissue of the swelling buds and emerging shoots.  During the summer months, our vines start to catch up in their development with the southern vineyards.  The heat begins to take its toll on the vines in the south as temperatures climb higher than 35°C and the vines go into survival mode.  The vines shut down to protect itself from water loss during photosynthesis, thus slowing the development of the berry.  It is said that the southern vineyards experience temperatures at least 5°C higher than the daily temperature in the northern vineyards.  So it seems the lake breeze welcomed by the vineyard crew provides a similar relief to the surrounding vines as well.

Sunday_in_Oliver_020.JPG

This is my 8th year in the Okanagan Valley, and I never tire of the brown hills, the blue skies, the rock formations, and the transition from sage brush and Artemisia to grapevine.  There has been a late start to the 2011 growing season, but it is only one of the events going to define the vintage.  I cannot wait to see how the season unfolds, and look forward to 2011 wines.

 

Sunday_in_Oliver_042_3.jpgBarb is fascinated by the rapid growth in the wine industry since she arrived in the Okanagan Valley, and is curious to see how we define ourselves as a wine producing region.  She loves skiing, learned to surf in Chile and literally dances to her own beat.  She is currently seeking a role in the wine industry as a winemaker, and lives for the moment when those first grapes arrive at the cellar door.

 





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Posted by Katie on
Wow! What a fantastic perspective of our little valley!! Makes me want to sip a pinot noir while feeling the cool lake breeze!!
Posted by HA on
With your word pictures and your photos, reading your blog made me miss the Okanagan even more! Have passed the link onto some friends who I know will be regular visitors to this site.
Posted by Martin on
What a great place to live!!!
Thanks for the Blog Barb, looking forward to read you again!
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This is Deb Derman's philosophy class saying hello!! It is an amazing site Barb:)
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  20 septembre 2012Bonjour Cynthia !Je souhaite participer à ce concours travalo très syatuphiqme.Utile et pratique en entreprise, à l’école, en voyage, en sortie ! La couleur peut être adaptée et associée à notre tenue vestimentaire. Très petit et facile de rangement !Un petit pschit et nous revoilà prête !! Ce produit est indispensable dans notre sac à main !(Je suis abonnée à ta chaîne youtube sous le pseudo Barbyie Shou !)Bonne chance à toutes !
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