A busy weekend along the Upper Arrow Lake meant fewer than expected volunteers coming out for the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society (ALGGS) work bee, but the few who did show made it happen and planted their test plot in Burton.
Just over three years ago, the ALGGS started the process that has gotten the vines into the ground. The way has been long, said Society Chair Jerry Botti who is growing the test plot on his land in Burton, but the fruits of their labours are on the horizon now. The vines now growing in the test plot are the culmination of years of research, fundraising and paperwork.
The newly planted has a smart new sign indicating what’s happening in the field filled with pink one-litre drink boxes spaced at regular distances from one another. What’s sheltered in the eye-catching pink boxes is the big deal: wine grape varietals selected for the region. The 21 rows of vines are divided between red and white varietals, many of which will be unfamiliar to the average wine drinker. Alongside the familiar Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the lesser-known Baltica, Siegerrebe, and Marquette. A handful of the vines are proprietary, given to Botti for experimentation only, any clippings must be burnt or hauled away and the plants cannot be sold or bred.
All 21 vines have been selected for the Kootenay growing season and climate, and will begin producing fruit in a few years, which is when the experimentation with wine making can begin. But that isn’t the point of the test plot, said Botti, who explained that the Society had faced an uphill journey explaining to funders that the test plot was not only for the good of a few people but would serve as good data for anyone interested in growing grapes in the area.
But the group was able to get their message through and get funding that allowed them to collect data about rainfall, temperatures and the length of the growing season along the valley. They then were able to use their climatic data to go about selecting varietals for testing, which were put in the ground last Saturday, June 16.
The wait now will be for the grapes themselves to see how they turn out, but there is always more work to be done and there will be more chances for people to come out and contribute some hours to the ALGGS project. And Jerry Botti will be selling some extra vines at the Burton Farmers’ Market (the non-proprietary varietals), so you can start your own experiment at home too.