I don’t really like to compare vintages to each other. But this year feels a lot like 2008 and maybe even 2005. A warm summer leads into a cool rainy period leads into a mild Indian Summer with sunny cool days and cold nights to retain acidities while sugars slowly, ever so slowly creep up towards perfection while all the while flirting with a rainy soggy ending. The extended amount of hang time for the grapes under these perfect conditions means physiological ripeness that does not come at the expense of out of balance sugars or acids. These are very exciting times if you are a Willamette Valley Winemaker.
We have waited through the first Fall rains and they were indeed refreshing and cleansing. We saw anywhere from one inch to two inches of rain over a 5 day period with cold temperatures and now the sunshine is back with temperatures in the low to mid-seventies and nighttime temperatures in the forties and low fifties for the next few days. This is ideal weather for Pinot Noir’s slow and steady ripening and building of complexity. That is why I liken this vintage to previous cooler ones that I love. The sunny warm vintages allow us to do whatever we want if we are diligent. This year we need to make sure that we pick at the most opportune time.
Our Chardonnays from the week of September 7th are happily bubbling away in barrel in the cellar and smell wonderful. Although it was a long dry summer with absolutely no rain, the nitrogen and nutrition levels in the musts are decent to good and are the ferments are happy. Three weeks after we started our Chardonnay harvest at Silice, we continued the picking of Chardonnay today at the Gregory Ranch bringing in our three acres of West facing blocks there that always contribute lovely pear and floral and mineral flint-like characters to our Sigrid Chardonnay. We have yet to pick Temperance Hill Chardonnay for our Old Stones blend but that is scheduled for three days from now.
Most of our Syrah for the gargantua wines are in house. The Les Collines fruit from Walla Walla was exceptional this year and although we were worried about smoke taint this year with all of the forest fires, it smells wonderful… very meaty and savory. The Bien Nacido Syrah which is farmed by Chris Hammel and his team is out of this world! The team at Bien Nacido have become very close friends of mine and I look forward to visiting this vineyard and these people every year. What a magnificent corner of the world this vineyard is perched on. All of our Syrah is in except for the mighty Symbion vineyard owned and operated by Steve and Irene Doerner. This is a very special place as well and, for me, a very special relationship. Steve is one of the gurus of American wine and one of my earliest inspirations. To be able to source fruit from his home vineyard to make wine from is the ultimate honor and I look forward to harvesting and making this Eola Amity Hills AVA Syrah every year! It is the cornerstone of our Oregon gargantua Syrah.
The Pinot Noir harvest is off to a big start but again, it is just a start. With perfect conditions in the field and limited disease pressure and cold nights, we are letting the fruit hang without risk of overt ripeness but also keeping a close eye on rainfall accumulation. We have harvested half of the Bergstrom Vineyard, half of the Silice Vineyard, The Winery Block, half of the Le pre du Col Vineyard. We have yet to harvest Shea, Gregory Ranch or Temperance Hill Vineyard. There are more rain showers and cooler temps in the forecast so now we are firing on all cylinders and really starting to enjoy our time together as a winemaking team with our group of young winemaking interns who are here to learn, laugh, work, sweat, sort, pigeage, laugh some more and potentially cry. We are off to a great start.