October 14th 2010
Last year at this time, I believe, we had finished harvesting all of our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit; 2009 was the hottest viticultural year on record after all. This year is, reportedly, the coolest viticultural year on record and although 1984 probably qualifies as the latest, coldest and most disappointing vintage Oregon has ever seen, 2010 will probably go down with 1999 and 1993 as a vintage that was decided in the last minute.
Late vintages can often-times be the most fascinating vintages. Our industry has a desired standard for the amount of time that fruit ripens on the vine between its flowering and its harvest. Usually this “hangtime” number is somewhere between 90 and 100 days. Today marked 110 days for most of our vineyard sites. Most of these sites will not be harvested for another 10-15 days. What this means is that the physiological ripeness in our vineyards will be at least 20-25 days greater than historical physiological ripeness standards and could perhaps be one of the longest “hang-time” vintages in recorded history.
What does this mean for the consumer? I believe great things! What I think 2010 will yield (as far as vinous quality is concerned) is this: small quantities of brightly colored wines, fresh aromas of bright fruit, high acids, low alcohols and mother-nature willing…..pure deliciousness. In short, 2010 is a classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vintage in the making!
In Oregon we have often times, whether right or wrong, used the term “Burgundian” to describe our wines. Now, obviously in the early years, this word was used because Burgundy was reference standard for Pinot Noir and everyone wanted to compare their efforts to the mother-land. This is very understandable…I mean who doesn’t want to hear that their wine tastes like a “Chambolle” or a “Vosne Romanee”? As time progressed, “Burgundian” was perhaps more used to describe wines that were more “Old World” in character, higher in acid, more ageworthy, perhaps a little funky. And although I am a staunch believer, having lived and worked in Burgundy (as well as having bought and consumed hundreds and hundreds of bottles of Burgundy over the years) that Burgundy and Oregon are completely different in style….2010 could actually be a very “Burgundian” style vintage.
When was the last time that flavors preceded sugars at such low ripeness levels? When was the last time that acids were so high and yet juices tasted so good? Well, the answer to both of these questions is 2007 of course but that fact aside, 2007 and 2010 could be two of Oregon’s most “Old World” vintages where those of you who only drink Burgundies will definitely appreciate what you are tasting from the Willamette Valley. Not only will these wines be food friendly, but they will be age-worthy.
The 2007 wines which were harvested after 4-6 inches of rain and 4-5 weeks of clouds and no sunshine are glorious reminders that Pinot Noir is fickle and mysterious and…..knows more than we do when it comes to vintage. 2010 is sunny and cool and late, so why should it not be the next heir to the throne of great vintages? Well, only time will tell….and maybe we could speculate a little more once we actually start to harvest some fruit!
Until then…….spread the word: 2010 Oregon Pinot Noir is the vintage of the year!