Harvest and Fall 2012

What follows covers the fall and the period up to Christmas.

Aside from an unusual amount of snow in  the last week or so we have had pretty decent fall weather with more than our fair share of sunny days (which is not actually a great number) and above average temperatures. This followed a good summer and all in all 2012 has turned out to be a record year for growers in the Okanagan. Despite being a record year, the economics of running a vineyard continue to astound me. In 2012 we spent 120 hours picking of which only 6 was in our own vineyard. If you add this to the 2,000 or so hours spent in our own vineyard this gives in excess of 2,100 hours that we have spent tending the vines – a spectacular return of about $5.00 an hour, before out of pocket costs or about half the minimum wage. But, it is well worth it because the exercise has knocked off a ton of weight (which I can enjoy putting back on over Christmas) and has added years to our lives in which we can continue to enjoy the misery. Sometimes I think it is a pity the Mayans got it wrong.


After harvesting, the grapes were shipped down to Okanagan Falls where the buyer, Synchromesh Wines has a small boutique winery. They were crushed immediately and fermented in a large stainless steel tank. Now,  (a couple of months later), fermentation  is complete and the wine shows great promise. It will be bottled around the end of February, and then sold under the Synchromesh label to avoid being tainted by any association with my wine-making capabilities which are suspect at best. We plan to give a little description of  Thorny Vines on the back label.  If you are interested, the wine  is being “launched” in Vancouver in about March 2013 and will be available (thanks to the new laws) pretty much anywhere in Canada after that. We will send out invitations to the launch  when the details firm up. I think the only way to get the wine outside of BC will be to order it directly from the winery: www.synchromeshwines.ca and they will arrange to ship it to you. As a reader of this blog you will be expected to purchase at least a case.

Mike and Sean will be joining us for Christmas, weather permitting. In typical fashion they arrive on Christmas Eve and leave with indecent haste after a couple of days here to spend New Year in Vancouver. It is barely enough time for them to pick up their Christmas presents which I suppose was their main objective in coming anyway. They will be surprised to find there aren’t any as we paid for their flights.

Their interests are moving in different directions. In addition to his real job, Sean is now part-owner of an online retail liquor distribution venture as well as a conventional liquor store which he and his mates set up. Sean constructed the website: www.corkwine.ca. and I hear via the grapevine that he is even putting out wine recommendations in their newsletter which is a terrifying thought.  Buying booze online is handy for those of us who don’t like going out in the cold to get our weekly ration but doesn’t help (yet) if you don’t live in Alberta. Mike has always been a merciless critic of my profession as an accountant, but as fate would have it, his consulting firm has been taken over by KPMG, and he now finds himself embarrassingly answering to a whole bunch of them.

Of Ann, I have to say she is a good sport and puts in a remarkable amount of work in the vineyard for somebody who doesn’t drink, and enjoys permanent status as a designated driver. You have to watch her though because she is forever trying to plant all sorts of weird stuff (other than grapes) in the vineyard. We have roses, portulaca, dahlias, mealies, tomatoes, gem squash and all sorts of berries everywhere. I have even noticed some sunflowers popping up in the middle of our experimental Pinot Noir row. Her second love is birds. She feels it is important for her to feed all the birds in the valley, so they don’t have to waste their time flying south for the winter. Countless varieties of seed for them figure prominently on our grocery bills and this kind of treatment pretty much invites the birds to attack the grapes, peck holes in the side of the house and mess everywhere except where it might actually be useful as manure.


Recent visitors since our last update are listed below. For those of you who visited earlier in the year, you will find (I hope) details of your exploits in earlier updates:

R0y Thompson (Ann’s cousin) barely missed the last update, but timed his arrival to coincide with the annual Penticton Iron Man event. Unfortunately he came in on an unscheduled flight late at night which confused us simple country folk and we left him at the airport for a couple of hours until the regular flight came in.  He was remarkably forgiving for a man who had travelled all the way from Galway Ireland to be greeted by nobody other than the airport security guard. The next morning he jumped out of bed keen to start work in the vineyard (or so he said) and wrenched his back. This immediately put him on the disabled list and he spent the next two days looking for his wallet so he could pay the local physiotherapist to sort him out. The search didn’t go well, and he was forced to take steps to cancel his credit cards with his bank in Ireland. This took another day and ended only when his wallet turned up tucked neatly into a little pocket in his bag where it should have been (and was) all the time. It would be unfair of me to imply Roy’s visit was completely unproductive, after all he brought  four jars of Bovril and a bottle of Irish whisky with him, and he was instrumental in solving our bird-netting problem in the vineyard so we eventually got more than our pound of flesh out of him.

I think Kurt Wilkinson was our next visitor. Kurt came with his delightful girlfriend Dominika (not to be confused with the “Singing Nun” – but that is another pre-1970 reference). Kurt & Dominika started a new tradition of picnicking in the far corner of the vineyard which was rather romantic and has given us some thoughts as to making a permanent picnic spot down there for the romantic at heart. It will also serve as a place to hide for those of us trying to escape work. K&D, (not to be confused with Kraft Dinners) enthusiastically cooked dinner for us and our old friends the Carol and Bruce Waterman one evening.

Somewhere in the middle here Simon and Cathy Russell turned up with Munro for a whirlwind visit designed to renew their “Row Status” and entrench themselves as our most prolific visitors. Simon was also keen to oust Alex Derry as the Worker of the Year, but was hopelessly distracted by scotch and wine so his attempt fell a long ways short. I am sure he will be back to give it another go.

After being turned down by the boys, we thought we were in real trouble for harvesting labour when the cavalry turned up out of the blue in the form of Pat & Ray Kureluk. Within minutes of arrival Pat seized a Safeway bag and took charge of unclipping the bird nets. She must have taken off several hundred clips before realizing that there was a hole in the bag. Sort of like the Hansel and Gretel story, I am still finding them everywhere so I can track exactly where Pat has been in the vineyard. Ray and I decided the better plan was to sample the 18-year old scotch which Ray was kind enough to bring with him (and even kinder to leave behind when he left).

And lastly, a special thanks to Joanna Russell for belatedly making good on her promise to bake her patented cinnamon buns when she was last here in the summer. I am looking forward to the shipment which I am sure she is sending out with Michael as my surprise Christmas present.