Today is Saturday August 22nd and we have begun picking fruit and thus have kicked off our 17th harvest. Three weeks earlier than ever before at Bergstrom Wines.
It is the hottest and driest year on record for the Oregon Wine Community, surpassing 2003 and even years from the 1940’s and 1930’s when we weren’t here making wine but we had some very hot years. Less than an inch and a half of rainfall since the month of May and unusually hot and dry conditions have made this year very precocious.
Currently the skies are hazy and visibility is less than a mile in certain areas from the five large forest fires burning in Central and Eastern Oregon. The hot East winds have blown the smoke through the Columbia River Gorge and into the Portland metro area and into the Willamette Valley making this hot weather even more unbearable. These winds are notorious for drying out grapes and quickly ripening crops, but what will the additional smoke bring to our harvest? It seems like every year brings a new challenge.
Once again this year, Mother Nature has given us a bumper crop. Natural yields were originally estimated at somewhere between four and seven tons to the acre in many of our vineyards. We were very judicious early on and dropped half of the yield on the ground to see what the rest of the year would bring. With a very hot and humid month of July we saw some mildew pressure in some vineyard sites and those clusters needed to also be dropped on the ground. Once the disease pressure was gone the sunburn came in like a lion. Temperatures soared in our vineyards over several days sometimes reaching 105+ Fahrenheit and the Western side of many clusters were burnt and shriveled. These clusters too needed to be cut off of the vine and we carried out a very careful operation in many of our vineyards of hand plucking individual sunburnt berries off of otherwise healthy clusters.
Now we are left with a precious small crop where yields are below normal but look very healthy.
We have started the harvest with Chardonnay from the Le pre du Col on the Ribbon Ridge AVA. These are the youngest vines of our estate Chardonnay plantings. We normally begin with Chardonnay and then get into the more precocious vineyard blocks from Bergstrom Vineyard and Silice before finishing the Chardonnay and then jumping both feet first into the big Pinot Noir harvest. It should be another fun one and I am sure surprises will abound as always.
Happy harvest everybody!