November 27th 2011
The past few weeks have been very busy at the winery as we hurriedly try to finish all of our remaining fermentations and take our new wines to barrel while also squeezing in four days of open house tasting events. Usually by the Thanksgiving open house weekend in Oregon wine country we are finished with fermentation and all of our new wines are put to bed. This last Saturday we hosted 400 people at the winery for a walk around tasting and we still had 18 active fermentations and a lot of wine sitting in tanks waiting to go to barrels. And yesterday during the middle of our open house we finally pressed out our last tank of Pinot Noir. Some of my friends and neighbors were actually still harvesting and pressing their Riesling and Syrah grapes just last 7 days ago! By tomorrow the shiny stainless steel fermenters will be put away and I will only have about 100 more barrels to fill….. man, is this year finally going to be over? It just keeps going and going this 2011 harvest. Relentless it seems.
The number one question from my clients and wine club members over these past two weekends of open house was: “ So….. how bad was 2011 really?” The common misconception in the wine world is that late and cool vintages often spell disaster. And after all of the jabbering and jabbering leading up to this, Oregon’s latest vintage ever, I can understand why. The delicious news to report is that the 2011 wines appear to be very high in quality! Young, raw wine is usually not very rewarding to taste, as it leaves very little to the imagination with its hard malic acids, youthfully aggressive tannins and boisterous primary fruit characters and aromas. But as I have tasted every wine that I have put into barrel, I find the 2011’s to have a stunning amount of perfume, color, sweetness and suave texture which bodes well for these wines once they have undergone their secondary fermentation in barrels.
I dare say that I like these 2011 wines more than I liked the 2010 wines at the same stage….. and the 2010’s are perhaps the greatest complete lineup of wines that we have made at Bergstrom Wines to date! Could it be? Two potentially great, dangerously cool, wet and late vintages in a row? Yes, I believe it is true. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay love the cool climate and love the struggle and long hang time that comes with ripening at the edge…. and Oregon has one of the best suited cool climates for these varietals around. Oregon weather that may not be supportive or nurturing of the human spirit has proven time and time again to make really good wines…. Which in turn can be used to help us to raise the human spirit when in need. I am happy that vintages like these arrive and freak everybody out only to later prove the point that we are in Oregon growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for a very good reason. It is here, sandwiched between two warm-climate states, that our cool, even marginal grape-growing season pushes our quality and our nerves to the edge. Only at the brink can the greatest wines be achieved if you are talking about Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. For Cabernet it is no mystery, you need heat. For Pinot Noir, you need difficulty.
The dark and deep wine stains on the cracked and sore hands of my sleepy-eyed crew will attest that this was a difficult and even grueling harvest for us all. We are tired now but almost finished with our work. The light at the end of the tunnel is not a train. These days we are spending our time prepping and cleaning barrels in the cold rain and building barrel stills in the cellar and filling them up with warm, new delicious wines. The Chardonnays are all bubbling away and I am happy to report that the absence of bird pressure this year means that we will have enough Chardonnay in 2011 to actually sell to you! Usually I produce (between “Sigrid” and “Old Stones” Chardonnays) about 100 barrels of Chardonnay in a year. Last year the birds ate 75 of those barrels worth of wine as it sat in the fields. This year they spared us, and our grapes, and we have a happy bubbling cellar full of Chardonnay. So I am relieved and grateful.
I thought it would be fun to introduce my crew to you as their hard work has helped us to achieve our goals this year. They have all been a great pleasure to be around; very funny, great charisma and all hard working. This year we have worked alongside Anne from Portland, Justin from Dundee, Ted from Salem, Nick from Newberg, and Edward who is a new transplant to Portland from Colorado.
Travis and my family and I give a hearty toast to their efforts and to another great vintage at Bergstrom Wines. I hope that we will see you all around the winery before the holidays. If not, on behalf of the Bergstrom Wines family, I wish you all a happy holiday season and may the new year bring you health, happiness and continued prosperity.