It will surprise absolutely no one that the Baillie-Grohman tasting room is off to an interesting, all be it delayed, start to the 2020 season. I think it is fair to say that we were all pleased with the mild winter and excited to have what Petra refers to as “a 9 year” behind us. Apparently there is data that indicates that weather in our province tends to go in 10-year cycles, with the years ending in the digit 9 being particularly inhospitable to the vineyards.
2019, by any definition was a tough one here in the vineyards. A hard freeze in February did some damage to vines and the cool, rainy spring that followed was no more helpful. Then the short summer ended quickly in September, when cool weather put an early end to the ripening season.
All things considered, though, the wines that Wes has made are excellent, and proof that a good winemaker is worth his or her weight in gold.
So, optimism abounded for 2020. And then COVID-19 struck, throwing pretty much every economic sector in the province for a loop. When would we be a able to open, we all began to wonder. We had some renovations done in the kitchen over the winter, so it wasn’t a big deal to reorganize the tasting room to accommodate the 2-metre social distancing rules. We relocated one tasting table outside, under the eave on the north side of our building and spread the tables in the pavilion and back patio further apart. The management team cobbled together a COVID-19 plan according to the latest regulations, and we began with a soft opening that included sales only. Tastings—on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only—resumed in June. Later in the month we went to daily tastings, and the kitchen once again began to make our popular cheese and charcuterie platters.
In that same busy month a team of workers planted six acres of new vines on a recently acquired property about 50 metres to the north of the main vineyard. Two acres of Cabernet Franc now dot the upper portion of the new vineyard and the rest is planted to Chardonnay and two different Pinot Noir clones.
I am happy to report that business in the wine shop has been brisk. Readers should be aware we are down to our last few cases of our fabulous 2015 Pinot Noir Reserve and the treasured 2016 Cab Franc has sold out. Fortunately, 2017 versions of each are excellent.
Probably the most interesting observation in June was that we are getting a much greater than usual number of visitors from right here in the Kootenays. I have already seen more Nelson people in my tastings than I did all last summer and fall. In the last few weekss Alberta visitors numbers have increased dramatically, and it is great to see many of our regular customers, many from Calgary.
Lastly, we have some new faces here in the winery building. Tanya Wall has joined the team, and we are thrilled to have the expertise in the kitchen and event planning of one of our favourite people. Maureen Bates has been hired to spell off Pat Fleck in the kitchen, and Kadis Wall is working afternoons, bussing tables and helping out with keeping tables clean and ready for the next visitors.
Mostly, I want to say that we are sympathetic with all of you whose lives have been turned upside-down by the pandemic, and that we loving getting the chance to meet, chat and share the love we have for the wines we produce here in the heart of the Kootenays.
July 18, 2020