Despite the piles of snow and a messy commute, wineries in B.C.'s southern interior say their glass is more than half-full after being hit by a major snowstorm.
The Okanagan Valley was blanketed by a snowstorm, which started on Saturday afternoon and lasted until Monday evening. Kelowna was left with 38 centimetres of snow, Penticton with 27 centimetres and Osoyoos accumulated 14 centimetres.
Meteorologist Jennifer Hay at Environment Canada said this type of snowfall is "out of the ordinary" for the region. Kelowna was only one centimetre shy of beating its 1949 record for the most snow received over a two-day period.
But in B.C.'s main agricultural region, the white stuff hasn't bothered some of the 131 winery operators and grape growers in the Okanagan Valley.
"We were excited," said Rasoul Salehi, general manager of LaStella and Le Vieux Pin wineries in Osoyoos. He said snow helps maintain the health of grape vines through the winter season. "Down near the root level, near the bottom of the plant's trunk, snow creates almost an igloo or blanket-like effect protecting the vine from freezing and dying," Mr. Salehi said.
Snow can help with moderating fluctuating temperatures and preventing frost – a more significant threat to grape vines that often comes when skies are clear and there is little to trap heat in the atmosphere. Most vines cannot survive below -15 C.
The problem of vines being bitten by frost is something Mr. Salehi and others in the Okanagan have experienced before. "The winter of 2008/2009, we had clear skies but temperatures plummeted to minus-20 degrees, and even minus-23 in certain areas, and it caused quite a bit of damage up and down the valley," he said.
Scott Locke, general manager of Cedar Creek Winery in Kelowna, echoed Mr. Salehi's sentiments about the early winter snowstorm. "I wasn't too worried. Had it been February, it'd be a bigger concern because we would have started pruning to get ready for the upcoming season," he said.
Both Mr. Locke and Mr. Salehi say unexpected weather conditions are a part of being a grape grower in the region.
"Whatever style of wine-making you have, you have to dial it back in the Okanagan," Mr. Salehi said. "Your practices are more expensive because you have to take into consideration the worst-case scenario conditions with the weather: Prepare for an early harvest, have lower yields, prune later."
This snowstorm, though, is not unwelcome. It's expected to add to the water supply in the desert-like conditions of the region and help with irrigation. "It's all healthy from that perspective. When the runoff comes, the lake's going to rise quite a bit," Mr. Locke said.