After what seemed like an eternity of not being able to see my valley’s landscape or breathe our northerly cool climate’s fresh, maritime air due to the local forest fire scenario that I tried to accurately describe in my previous harvest journal entry, we are waking up here to a new morning both figuratively and literally.
The other night, the Willamette Valley was the stage for a tremendously dramatic thunderstorm, which brought brighter lightning and louder thunder than I can honestly remember witnessing in my life. Hundreds of lightning flashes and godly booms of noise helped to usher in coastal winds and nourishing rains that dropped the smoke from the atmosphere and from the hillsides and vine rows where it enjoyed an 8-day chokehold on all of us. Visibility, breathability, and hope are back in our region, and we are poised to finish this harvest.
Today, I am wandering around the property like a newborn adult, soaking up blue sky, looking at the insects, birds, and other wildlife that have come back out of their shelters, and we have three team members’ children on site, happily doing online school work in the tastings room and on the deck, and it all feels wonderful because I know that we have all been in this terrible year together. As a team, as a workforce, and as a family, we have all been working harder than ever since March to make a strange situation not become a normality, but something we can rise above, and come out stronger on the other side.
To say that this has been an unusual harvest would not do justice to the absolutely bizarre and chaotic nature of the past couple of weeks. Normally, I would lay out for you the organized, scientific, and philosophical reasoning and rationale for what we harvested and in what order. A historical snapshot of harvest journals usually start out like: “today we picked Bergström Vineyard Block 1 Pinot Noir under blue skies and everyone was happy.” This year, you will have to bear with me when I record it more like: “This year we picked 75% of our entire harvest in one week, and I can barely remember what happened because it was absolutely crazy.”
In the winery, I have a chart sitting on the wall right in front of me that lists all 61 clonal blocks across 70 acres of our 5 estate vineyard. I have noted my farming team’s and my summertime observations on cluster morphology, bloom dates, predicted harvest dates, and my thoughts on whether or not the block would be early, middle, or late in harvest based on how it went through the veraison process, health of canopy, moisture in the soil, etc. I would normally use that chart, as well as tastes of daily vineyard samples and laboratory analysis to map a well thought out picking schedule spanning 4-6 weeks. This year, it all happened in 9 furious days. This was a difficult decision, of course, but it is one we made with confidence. All of our mapping of the vintage, and our intimate knowledge of each section of each vineyard reassured us that the vines would be ready, and would perform for us if we hastened the harvesting, ensuring that our fruit would not hang too long in smoky conditions. To me, that is the moral of the story: Even when ripping up the best laid plans, it is the laying of said plans that empowers confident, game-time decisions.
This is not the harvest that we were hoping to celebrate, but I am very excited about the potential of this year’s wine, wine that we farmed, picked, fermented, worried about, and doted over, because any grape that someone intentionally loves and gives attention to will become something great someday. I have a lot of anecdotal experience regarding that subject…now if I could just get someone to run a scientific study comparing wines that are truly loved vs. not, that would be cool. Probably not going to happen though, you’ll just have to trust me.
We are now expecting a couple days of rain, and on the other side of that, some warm temperatures and sunny skies. I anticipate most of the valley will finish up their harvesting activities during that sunny window. Because we also make Syrah, we will be picking small amounts of Oregon Syrah fruit from the Willamette Valley, as well as from the Rogue and Umpqua Valleys over the next week or two or three for our gargantua label, and I am very excited about that as well. I’ll report more on that later.
Once again, thank you for your kind messages, gifts, and a few crafty, amazing projects! Wow, we have been so overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness and the well wishes sent to our team and family. Our heartfelt gratitude to you! I hope you and your family are safe and well. Keep the faith! Help is on the way in the form of delicious vinous efforts from us very soon!