Category Archives: Harvest 2003
Now that Harvest is over and we have seen the holidays come and go, I can finally settle down (between pruning days) and taste the barrels of wine which are slowly starting to show their personalities. Once a wine is put into barrel it is warm and wild with primary aromas of fermentation. It takes at least a couple of months for the wine to finish its fermentation and settle its lees to the bottom of each barrel where the dead yeast cells will begin to autolyze and feed the young wine with amino acids. Sometimes tasting a wine before its secondary fermentation starts can be awkward and disappointing to the novice. But after some years of experience of tasting through young barrels of wine we look for two things: structure and potential.
Now, by structure I mean the trinity of 1.) fruit 2.) acid and 3.) tannin. All of these elements are essential in determining a wine’s character, balance, texture, appeal and potential for cellaring. If one is greater than the other a wine can be unbalanced, which can either be good or bad depending on our personal palates. Heavy on the fruit but low on the acid an tannin can mean that we are holding in our glass a “fruit-bomb” destined to please most people but has little potential for pairing with diverse foods or lasting long in the cellar. Too much acid or tannin with a deficit of fruit could mean that this wine needs some years to open up in the bottle to show its true potential although an imbalance in these two departments may never allow a wine to truly shine.) But when all three are in agreement, a wine can really show us the character of the vintage and the vineyard with promise for the future.
Walking through the cellar right now is truly a pleasure. The wines of the 2003 vintage are very appealing with massive fruit characters, supple decadent textures and a healthy amount of acid and soft tannins which should make for very good drinking in the near to mid-term once the wines are released. Some of these wines will not be destined for long-term cellaring, yet some of them might just surprise us. Looking back on the harvest every winemaker in the Northern Willamette Valley was freaking out! Most of us had never seen temperatures and chemical lab analyses like those. Some of the older farmers exclaimed: It’s just like 1983! (I was 8 years old, so I can’t help you there.) The vintage was hot and the risk of making unbalanced wines with heavy alcoholic characters was in your face. So it was with caution that we proceeded and changed our winemaking style to adapt to the season and now that we can taste through some of our barrels, the results are magnificent!
The Bergström Vineyard: Nose is loaded with medicinal mineral notes and big red cherries. This wine is luscious and tempting already. The De Lancellotti Vineyard: Closed now but showing tell tale Willakenzie soil spice notes of star-anise, cardamom and gingerbread with big dark fruit characters and a strong acid backbone to support the wine. This wine will need a few more months to start opening up.
The Arcus Vineyard: is perhaps the greatest wine we have made to date from this incredible site. Huge heady perfumes and a decadent silky texture. Too bad this may be the last Arcus we will make.
The Shea Vineyard: right now is the star of the cellar with a color, aroma-profile and glycerine-laden fruit-core which makes it tempting to drink now. This wine will definitely shine. I keep dropping my jaw at how silky these wines are.
The Hyland Vineyard: Could be the greatest showing from these 30+ year old vines that we have ever seen. The Cumberland Reserve will be a monster in 2003!!
The Broadley Vineyard: Wow! Port soaked griotte cherries wrapped in caramel. This wine will be impressive! Huge color, and structure make this wine a potential sleeper of the vintage. We hope that you will all join us this Memorial Day weekend at the winery as we will be pouring barrel samples of all of these wines and offering them at a futures price for release in November. I couldn’t be more proud, and after a vintage like 2003 I couldn’t be more relieved.
Save for our Riesling which is still hanging on the vine, harvest has come to an end. After a week of rain and cool weather the East winds have picked up again and dried things out. The forecast is for five days of sun and relatively warm weather for late October. The leaves have all turned yellow and orange so we will only get sugar development in the riesling through dehydration or botrytis (noble rot.)
Fermentations have gone exceptionally well but have been curiously long. Most ferments from destemming to de-vatting have taken 24 to 27 days which is exceptionally long and quite exciting. The longer the fermentation the more complex a wine tends to be with concentrated fruit-packed characters. Colors are dark this year in the wines and most vineyard sources promise enticing finished product but it is still too soon to tell.
Now 75% of the pinot noirs are in barrel finishing off their fermentations and slowly integrating with their new French Oak barrel where they will age for the next 12 to 14 months. The Wahle Chardonnay is finishing up its fermentation after two weeks of tumultuous action while the Stoller fruit is only beginning its alcoholic fermentation. The Pinot Gris have been rather quick to ferment, while the Wahle and the Five Mountains wines are two weeks into their fermentations, other new vineyard contracts are already finished and dry after two short weeks in their barrels or tanks. We will have to monitor the others closely to ensure a balanced wine.
Overall my impression of the 2003 vintage so far is that it is a year of big fruit and soft tannins with very showy textures and colors. It may not become the greatest vintage of the decade but it will surely create wines to remember. The fun lies ahead as we taste through the barrels for the next few months to see what we have. Now only seven fermentors remain in the winery slowly bubbling away and daily we are checking their progress, occasionally pressing one out and taking the new wine to barrel. Perhaps only two weeks left of red wine fermentation and then we can prepare for the bottling of the 2002 Cumberland Reserve, Arcus, and Bergstrom Vineyard before our open house in November. In the next harvest journal we will conclude this season with preliminary tasting notes of our 2003′s, hope you’ll tune in.
October 8th 2003
The rains are finally here and it feels like fall. The mountains and hills surrounding the winery are half visible through the morning mist and fog. Jack Trenhaile, Hyland vineyard’s faithful winegrower, is on his way with our last pinot noir to be harvested this year. Tomorrow we will harvest our final pinot gris and chardonnay. With only an acre of Riesling to go, the harvest is nearing its end.
Once our fruit is safely under one roof we can turn all our attention to the fermentations that are slowly starting. This is a very crucial time. Carefully managing the temperature and extraction of each fermentation can be exhausting.
The “cap” of grape skins is pushed upward by carbon dioxide produced from the yeast’s activity and must be pushed back into the wine by hand 3 or 4 times a day to ensure a good extraction of color and body. Each tank can take 30 to 40 minutes to “punch down,” and it’s a physically draining experience.
But we are in good spirits, and it is so rewarding to be working with such great vineyard sites. As I walk among the tanks I pass Arcus, Bergström, Shea, Stoller, Broadly, De Lancelotti . . . I am impatient to taste what these wines have to offer.
The vineyards are quiet now, save for some birds feasting on unharvested clusters of fruit. Pheasant and quail run up and down the rows. As the vines send their sap supply to their roots for winter, the drained leaves turn brilliant colors. This is one of my favorite times of the year.
This is typically the time of year that we start thinking about harvesting our first pinots. Marginal climates like Oregon and Burgundy historically have pushed physiological ripeness to the edge of the season, forcing winegrowers to pick their fruit from the vine with rain on the horizon and cold weather approaching. Well, that’s what they say anyway . . . The last week we have had sweltering heat and strong east winds with temperatures in some vineyards peaking at 100+° F. The winds were relentless on young vines, dehydrating the fruit quickly, which resulted in a fast spike of sugar production. We had to move quickly. Over the past few days we have brought in 90% of our pinot noirs with only the old vines of the mighty Hyland vineyard left to hang. Everything is arriving at the winery ultra-ripe with brix levels at °24 – °28, but the acids remain honest, which is a godsend.
We started with Shea then moved quickly to De Lancellotti, one of our estate vineyards. The fruit was carefully sorted through to remove sunburned berries which give a “burnt” characteristic to wine. The Bergström vineyard was harvested next, followed by Stoller, Broadly, Arcus, Palmer, Creek, Montazi and some pinot gris from the Bresslers and Five Mountains. What an extraordinary effort! Friends and family poured into the winery to lend their hands as we harvested, destemmed and quickly cooled down 50 tons of pinot noir in five short days. Now the clouds are coming in and the winery is calm. Shea and Stoller tanks are slowly starting to show signs of life as their fermentations build, coming out of a tranquil cold soak. Colors are tremendous and flavors are intense. In the next few days we look forward to receiving the rest of Hyland Vineyard, Wahle pinot gris and chardonnay, and Stoller chardonnay. See you then!
photos & beer courtesy of Jay MacDonald
Today we started the harvest with two and a half tons of young vine 115 clone pinot noir from the Shea vineyard. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, a strong easterly wind and infinite visibility. The forecast is excellent; 5 days of sunshine with temperatures in the 80s, another great year?
My concerns are that the coho winds are drying out the vines and their fruit at a furious pace and sugars are rising faster than we can plan out picking dates. My consolation is that the acids are remaining high, higher than normal for Oregon, which means that the wines, high in alcohol as they will be, will have balancing acids. Also, the stems, shoots and seeds have been lignified since the end of August, which means that the polyphenolic structure is ripe and physiologically mature. The skins are thick and the fruit is bleeding color, which are all good signs that the fruit is very ripe and ready to give all that it has toward the wines that we desire.
We will harvest 25 tons of younger vine pinot noir this week and look toward next week for the older vines, Arcus and Bergström Vineyard, to be harvested. The Pinot Gris and Chardonnay vines are maturing their bounty at a beautiful pace. We’ll look to harvest them in two to three weeks if the weather allows us to push the envelope. I must say, two weeks ago the forecast looked challenging and once again we have been blessed with a slow Oregon summer. The oak leaves are starting to turn to hues of orange and brown, the hazelnuts are on the ground and we still have summer on the brain. Cheers, to our fifth harvest at Bergström, and to the beautiful skies to come–sunsets marked with violets and tangerine with a glass of pinot in hand.
After a very wet winter and a very hot, dry summer we are experiencing the most typical seasonal fall in Oregon since 1999. We’re trying to push the ripening process to the limit, letting the fruit hang as long as possible on the vines to gain in flavors and balance-and mother nature is cooperating, with cool nights and summer temperatures more true to our marginal climate, which is necessary to bring Pinot Noir to full physiological maturity.
Months of hard work and intensive hand-farming have paid off: our vineyards look great! The ripeness is ahead of schedule compared to the last couple of years in Oregon, but the flavors are tremendous! We are daily walking through these vineyards, carefully monitoring the progress of the fruit and the fall season: Bergström Vineyard, de Lancellotti Vineyard (both estate vineyards), Arcus Vineyard, Shea Vineyard, Stoller Vineyard, Palmer Creek Vineyard, Broadley Estate Vineyard, Hyland Vineyard, Wahle Vineyard, Five Mountains Vineyard, Winter’s Hill Vineyard and Bessler Vineyard.
Cheers to another great year of Oregon Pinot Noir at Bergström Winery!