Category Archives: Harvest 2010
Friday November 5, 2010
Abruptly, and yet after one of the longest years in our history, we finished our harvest with the Temperance Hill Pinot Noir and Wren Vineyard Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc , exactly one week ago on October 29th, while I was in Las Vegas for the Wine Spectator’s New World Wine Experience (desperately wishing that my phone had a “winemaking app.”)
The Wine Spectator event was great, as always, and this year we not only poured our wines to hundreds of wine-crazy tourists, trade and collectors alike, but we were also invited to speak about our 2008 Pinot Noirs at one of the wine seminars which was a great opportunity and an honor. Bergstrom (along with Ken Wright Cellars, Brick House, Archery Summit, Domaine Serene, Adelsheim, Evening Land and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars) was chosen as one of the top producers from Oregon for 2008 and we were all able to pour our wines and speak to the greatness of the 2008 vintage to hundreds of wine-tasters, critics and press as Harvey Steiman, Editor at Large for the Wine Spectator, moderated the panel discussion and tasting. Harvey has announced that he is scoring the 2008 vintage from Oregon 100 points!
My trip to Las Vegas was cut short and I had to jump on an early plane to get back to the winery, as my team was right in the thick of things during one of the most compressed vintages that we have ever experienced….and there were excited fermentations that needed my attention. It was good to be home.
The past week has been exhausting for everyone. The entire vintage was harvested within only a couple of weeks time (versus 5-6 weeks in a normal year) which meant that all of the fermentations all started around the same time and all of the fermentations would then finish at the same time and need to be pressed and taken to barrel at the same time! AAAARRRRGH! What a whirlwind of activity. Thank goodness for Pizza day at the winery, which is actually 3 days per week, but who can argue with fresh pizza out of the wood-fired oven when you are cold, wet and really hungry?
The Pinot Noirs going to barrel this week are very dark in color with terrific shades of magenta-purple. The aromas are fresh like crushed cherries and black raspberries. Pinot Noir people who love wines with low alcohols but great appeal and mouthwatering acidities will really love this vintage……I really am starting to love this vintage…..I just wish there was more of it, they are truly lovely.
But, unfortunately, with all good things may come something negative. In this case our production in 2010 is down almost 50% with our Pinot Noirs and over 70% with our Chardonnays. The 2010 wines will be scrumptious (and probably collectible as well)…..but there will be very little to be had.
For now, we have but 14 fermentations still active in the winery as we frantically press the 2-3 tanks that are finishing each day in a well-thought-out and slow-paced race to the finish line. Half of the Chardonnay barrels have fermented to dryness and will now begin their secondary fermentations before 12-18 months of ageing. The aromas in the barrel cellar and fermentation hall are divine, the frui flies are starting to become a nuisance and the yellowjackets are angry and aggressive as they face the end…. and the work is still furious to try and finish everything up prior to the Salud Auction and the Thanksgiving Open House Weekends in wine country! Then we bottle our 2009 Single Vineyard wines just before our annual harvest club-dinner series! Oh it is going to be so busy but so much fun. I sincerely hope to see all of you within the next month at one of our events or at the Salud auction if you can make it.
Until then, The Willamette Valley is draped in vibrant yellows, oranges and reds but it is much quieter now. The bird cannons, shotguns and electronic scarecrows have all been put away for the winter and the fruit trucks that were busily moving clusters here and there and everywhere are dormant for now. It is a beautiful time in Oregon. We are tired but we are thankful for another great vintage safely inside. Thank you for tuning in and please make sure that you check back regularly throughout the year for my blog that I will be starting upon the conclusion of harvest; it is under “Josh’s Blog” in the same part of our website. I plan on talking about the winemaking season from pruning to harvest (and everything in between), my travels, great meals and events all as they unfold throughout the year.
Thanks for your interest and support this year! On behalf of my family and the Bergstrom team, we wish you all the best this holiday season!
Sunday October 17, 2010
There is a palpable buzz around wine country today. Our tasting room is packed to the gills with spectators and wine-connoisseurs alike three deep at the bar and spilling out onto the patio, all wanting to know what 2010 is looking like and how much fruit we have picked so far. Not to mention it is a spectacular day to be in wine country touring and tasting.
So, here’s the skinny…..we have launched into full harvest mode and we are not stopping until the rain, which is predicted for this upcoming weekend, five days from now. We have enjoyed over 115 days of hang-time in most of our vineyard sites (one of the longest seasons in recent history) and we have been blessed with an amazingly sunny and dry October which has taken this year from a scary to a happy! A wetter and colder than normal winter is predicted for the Pacific Northwest and it looks like it is going to come knocking on our door around the beginning of November. Nothing is set in stone yet, but the extended weather forecast is showing two separate wet systems hitting the West Coast this weekend and the weekend afterwards. There will probably still be some good windows of opportunity to bring in some of the later, higher elevation sites and old-vine Chardonnays during that period depending on how much rain actually falls.
Yesterday we harvested all of Le Pre du Col Vineyard, our “monopole” estate vineyard site on the Ribbon Ridge. The initial fruit samples from all three blocks of Pommard and Dijon clone 777 Pinot Noir were thrilling to taste, dark colors, bright fresh aromas of raspberries and cherries. This vineyard, like many others, is showing very exciting levels of flavors with pH levels around 3.3 and Brix levels hovering around 22.5, which, in my book, is very exciting. We have also harvested all of The Winery Block now, both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the de Lancellotti Vineyard.
The only thing that is truly alarming about this vintage, so far, is how low the yields are. We have averaged between 0.98 and 1.2 tons per acre from all of our blocks, off of five different vineyards, so far. That puts our production, and I would imagine many other peoples’ production, down 30-50 percent. Ouch. That hurts.
Tomorrow we will harvest all of Gran Moraine, and most of the Gregory vineyard, two of our prime sites in the Yamhill Carlton AVA. On Tuesday we will harvest Palmer Creek and Chehalem Mountain Vineyard and on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday we will harvest all of the Shea Vineyard and the rest of Bergstrom and de Lancellotti.
When the sprinkles start to fall on Saturday, we will have only Temperance Hill Vineyard, Wren Vineyard and some older Chardonnay vines that we will hold umbrellas over until they are done playing in the puddles and ready to come inside. Then the real fun begins…..fermentation!
So while we ponder the effects of birds and heavy clouds on (already) low yields of potentially crazy-good wine from the 2010 vintage in the Willamette Valley, let’s all heave some heavy goblets of 2008 and 2009 Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Oregon to our thirsty mouths and rejoice in another year that we are alive and around to see mother nature’s majesty painted on all of the leaves and the fruit and the clouds and sky as the sun sets on one more autumn and the frost on the pumpkins sends us deep into our closets looking for sweaters.
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!
I was walking through the vineyard on Saturday evening, during a break in the rain after having racked my last 2009 Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir barrels to tank, and I had one of my most memorable harvest moments in years. The sky was five shades of gray with dark menacing clouds above and on the horizon, heavy billows were being blown in over the coastal mountain range. The colors across the rolling valley hills were tired but deep earth tones with the occasional vine, tree and hedge colored in explosive orange, yellow and red. The picturesque winery barns that pepper the tree lines were dark and motionless. As I stood there in the still of the evening, looking across to my many neighbors’ rolling hillside properties, whose vineyards are all still full of fruit, like mine, I couldn’t help but notice the incredible noise. Almost like being in a World War II movie, I was surrounded by the sound of dropping bombs and gunfire….explosions and crackling and whistling missiles. It was an eerie sound,that as Dr. Seuss once said; “started out low and then it started to grow.”
As I stood there captivated by this symphonic bombardment, while taking in the majestic landscape of a fall sunset in the Chehalem Valley, I realized what it was that had caught my ear and wonder. Every winery in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley was fighting the birds! Propane cannons, fireworks, whistles and electronic scarecrows on hundreds of acres were simultaneously firing off in an effort to keep the tens of thousands of migrating starlings from decimating their precious vineyard properties. What an amazing moment! It is moments like these when we realize that what we do is always at the mercy of mother-nature. If it is not the heat or the cold or the wet or the dry, it is the deer or the raccoons or the birds or the bugs. This year, I have a feeling, will be marked by birds.
We are currently tasting 21-22 degrees of sugar (brix) in most of our vineyards with great color, flavors and seeds and stems that are almost entirely ripe…… flavors before sugars always excites a Pinot Noir producer! The weather forecast as of Sunday morning calls for 14 days of sunny skies and good temperatures….everything we could have asked for and more. So why should we get what we want? For every push there is a pull and thus, the birds have moved in across the valley in a big way and are beginning to decimate the outer fringe rows of most vineyards where there are tasty black clusters of fruits that promise nourishing and replenishing carbohydrates to these migrating flocks on their way south for the winter. So, we have stepped up and mounted an even larger counter-attack to try and discourage these hungry travelers from choosing our fruit. Needless to say it is a 24-hour a day effort, and an up-hill battle.
What we need is time, to maximize our ripeness with the current weather forecast. What we have on our hands is a situation which, if not carefully executed, could force some growers to harvest earlier than desired if faced with the decision of absorbing a larger than tolerable financial loss due to bird desiccation. Yields are already very, very low. What we do not need are even lower yields.
Needless to say, these are exciting times! Some might say stressful times and some others might say expensive times (what with all of the bird fireworks, netting and propane cannons necessary to get through the next two weeks.) In any case, 2010 continues to surprise us as it unfolds, and given that most of Oregon’s wineries have yet to harvest more than 5-10% of their entire production, the story is a long way from being completely told. We have weeks to go and I have a feeling that we are still in for one doozy of a ride. One thing is for sure, I am really enjoying what I do here at Bergstrom. I am still in love with this great endeavor, even if I happen to look at birds a little bit differently nowadays.
Friday October 8th, 2010.
This morning under cloudy skies we picked our smallest estate vineyard; “The Winery Block.” This parcel is what greets you when you pull into our winery’s driveway and make your way up the hill towards our tasting room. On the North side of the road is a small planting of ultra-high density Pinot Noir (Pommard, 667 and Wadenswil clones) totalling just over 2 acres.
This vineyard is usually picked earlier than most because it usually breaks bud, flowers and ripens before most of our other sites. The bright reflective sandy soils and its due southern exposure make this a warm site and it benefits from a full day of sunshine all year long with no obstruction from hills, trees or buildings.
Harvesting the winery block is always a joyous occasion as there is usually a group of visiting wine tasters looking on from the winery porch, but the work is back-breaking as these vines are planted very densely together and trained very low to benefit from the soil’s heat radiation during the day and night. Much like Burgundy, hand-harvesting these vines will put a definite ache in your bones. But the resulting wine makes it worth it, only problem is that we never make more than about 7 or 8 barrels worth from one small fermentation.
We have decided to leave the Chardonnay section of the Winery Block to hang longer into next week prior to picking it. So far the botrytis pressure is staying low and the birds have, for the most part, avoided attacking this block of fruit.
As we observe harvest and all of its rituals and traditions together, it is fun and worthwhile to comment on the meals that we share as a team. Last night we took our tasting room sales team out to two of our favorite Portland eating and drinking establishments: House Spirits and Paley’s Place.
Our friends at House Spirits give a wonderfully informative tour of their facility as well as great insight into the world of spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey….) and their unique traditions and practices which are turning out some of America’s best artisan drinks. Definitely ask your local bartender or mixologist for some House Spirits “Aviation Gin” in your next corpse-reviver! If you are fortunte enough to get some time with Christian, Matt or Colin, and have them mix you a drink, you won’t be sorry….but you will be late for dinner which we were as we headed uptown to “Paley’s Place”, one of our longtime favorites owned and managed by our friends (and dare I say American luminaries of haute cuisine) Vitaley and Kimberley Paley. The kitchen is top notch and the staff is friendly and one of the most professional in town and we always love settling in to the relaxing dining room for a very comfortable gastronomic experience that is not to be missed if you are headed to Portland.
Here we enjoyed fresh oysters with a Chandon de Briailles 2007 Corton Charlemagne and a Didier Dageneau Pur Sang, a to-die-for charcuterie plate which showcased the kitchen’s more-than-apparent love (and skill) for crafting salumis, pates and head-cheeses. The charcuterie we paired with our very first vintage of Bergstrom; 1999 which is really showing the elegance and grace of that storied vintage.
The classics at Paley’s are not to miss and how could you go wrong with escargots and bone marrow in Bordelaise sauce dribbled over freshly toasted Brioche?!? The entrees were divine (freshly pulled rabbit raviolis with Oregon Chanterelles was the crowd favorite) and we poured some fun library wines (Bergstrom Whole Cluster Selection 2005 and 2006.) We finished with a sampling of every desert on the menu and a bottle of Royal Tokaji just to ensure that everyone would be waking up at 3 AM for that big glass of water. The evening was great and a really fun way to kick off the harvest season.
Tomorrow the rain comes and it looks like it will drizzle off and on for two days. The extended forecast is for more sunshine and temperatures getting back up into the 70′s. We will spend the next four days walking through vineyards and evaluating our picking strategies before we proceed. Stay tuned!
Thursday October 7, 2010
Happy Harvest! Today we have kicked off our vintage here at Bergstrom with the first fruit from the Bergstrom Vineyard. Under sunny morning skies we hand-picked our Dijon clones from blocks one and two which are situated on the Eastern side of the vineyard and face due south on thin Jory soils. These blocks are always riper earlier than our other vines at the Bergstrom Vineyard and we historically have started many harvests with these parcels.
Driving through the darkness from Portland to wine-country, I reflected on 12 years worth of dark, chilly, caffeinated mornings when harvests were kicked off. I remember Caroline and I helping to hand-pick our first harvest in the early rains of 1999 and how we nurtured those small fermentation bins into our first wine. I remember when our family picked the very first grape clusters off of our estate vineyards in 2001 (Bergstrom Vineyard), 2003 (de Lancellotti Vineyard) and 2005 (The Winery Block) and what pride we had as we filled our buckets with the literal fruit of years of hard work and investment. Each year has brought new and different concerns at harvest time and yet each year has been so uniquely wonderful that I can only be thankful for the diversity of conditions here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley which have enriched my professional career.
And then I thought about how exciting this vintage is going to be. This year we are harvesting our first fruit from a new estate vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and although the vineyard is yet to be officially named, we are very excited to introduce you to the wines as they evolve. We also have a new face around the winery; Travis Bonilla, my new cellar assistant. Travis is a Reed College graduate who with some good Oregon harvest experience and wine education under his belt is eager to get his feet and teeth purple this year at Bergstrom and I have a feeling that he will be a great addition to our team.
After having walked through our vineyards over the past few days, we have seen an increase in sugars and a surprising shift downward in our acids (strange for such a cool year) but what is most exciting is the incredible amount of flavor development that we have gained in the past few weeks. The skins and seeds of our fruit have also picked up considerable momentum in their physiological ripening cycle and we are starting to see really good color in our juice samples which is a good sign of fruit maturity. The forecast at this point is for passing rain this weekend and then, if you believe the models and our power to predict weather two weeks out, we are expecting a good period of dryness and sunshine from the 10th until the 20th of October. In the meantime, we will quickly de-stem what we have picked today and put it into tanks and cold-soak bins while we focus on staying dry over the weekend. So, like us, many wineries across the valley are probably kicking off their harvest in a small way today or tomorrow but will really kick it into gear next week as we approach the midway point of the month.
Cross your fingers, do your “no-rain” dances and stay optimistic. The future looks bright.
Thankfully I don’t have bad news today! Actually the news is getting better all the time around here. I know, I know….you were looking for a sad synopsis on the worst vintage to hit Oregon in four decades with a ten day weather forecast bringing gloom and doom and locusts and apocalyptic brimstone etc…. but guess what? Things are actually looking pretty exciting for Oregon in 2010! (I drink a lot of coffee, so I am usually pretty excited.)
Beautiful weather has settled in over the Pacific Northwest and we are looking at a potentially long high-pressure system developing over our area which could ensure clear skies and nice daytime temperatures for the next 10 days or more. This is exactly what we needed and its timing could not be better.
We are experiencing one of the longest growing seasons of recent memory here in Oregon’s Northern Willamette Valley. Vines buds began bursting way back in March only to be subjected to cold and wet conditions for most of the spring and unseasonably cool and wet weather for most of the summer. The vines are healthy and green, poised to ripen some serious crop! The only problem there is that there is very little crop to ripen. Most of our vineyard sites are sitting with less than 1.7 tons per acre and many of them are as low as 1.0 tons per acre. But this could bode well another very high-quality year here in Oregon as the canes are totally lignified, seeds are beginning to harden and woody and the skins are all colored up to a juvenile blue….all we need now is good weather, or at least not a lot of rain.
The last vintage that reminds me of what we are seeing right now is 1999. Some others might point to 1993 as well. Both vintages were long and cool and ended late. The wines upon release were tight and driven by bright acids, good structures and youthful fruit. Nowadays the wines from 1999 and 1993 are the shining stars of most collectors’ wine cellars. If you were lucky enough to have bought some of these wines and maybe even you saved some of those bottles for this long, you know what I am talking about.
But this vintage is far from over. Heck, it hasn’t even begun yet. By my calendar, we will look to maybe enter some of our younger vineyards by the 10th of October to begin our harvest. What happens from there is a mystery, but as always, I am cautiously optimistic.
In the meantime, we are putting together our final blends and racking the 2009 Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir to tank where it will sit patiently through harvest for its December bottling date. The 2009 wines are shaping up to be a lot of fun. They have dark colors, deep aromas of sweet berry pies, and mouth-filling sweetness and opulence that will beckon to be drunk upon release. We have already bottled the 2009 Chardonnays (Sigrid and Old Stones), which are truly stunning, as well as the 2009 Shea Vineyard, Temperance Hill Vineyard, Le Pre du Col and Winery Block Vineyard as well as the 2009 Old Stones Pinot Noir. All of these wines are unique and different and will be a real pleasure to drink upon their release. We have yet to rack the Bergstrom Vineyard and de Lancellotti Vineyard and will wait to do so until November. Overall the 2009 wines remind me a lot of the 2006 wines but with more fruit and more lifted aromas. They will be powerhouse wines for immediate consumption and the best of the vintage will age well and continue to develop in the bottle for 5-7 years, maybe more.
Check back soon, I am heading out to vineyards tomorrow and Wednesday to sample fruit and gather information and I look forward to sharing what I find with you all.
Welcome everybody to my 2010 Harvest Journal! Over the past several years I have posted my thoughts, ideas, photos, gastronomic adventures and other activities surrounding the Bergstrom Wines’ harvest. Harvest is our most sacred time of the year. It is what completes the circle of agricultural work that has been tirelessly and precisely executed since pruning started on January 3rd. After nine months of tending to our vines and soils and environs, and bottling the previous year’s vintage, and travelling all over the United States to show off our wares, it is now time to turn our focus to the new vintage and all that it promises.
It is fun to look back and see what we were doing on which days in past vintage years. And it is even more exciting to look forward to this harvest which is definitely going to be a doozy!
2010 thus far has been cool and wet across the board. 2010 is actually in the running for the coolest vintage-year on record. Compare that with last year’s (2009) hottest year on record and you have yourselves “global weirding.” Last year at this time we were gearing up to bring in our first fruit of the harvest. This year we won’t look to bring in a single grape until the second week of October. That is; if things go as planned, which they never do here in the Willamette Valley. We are currently experiencing wet weather with warm temperatures (high 60′s and low 70′s.) Most of our younger vines are 100% colored up but we have several blocks of Pommard and Wadenswil clone vines in older vineyards that are mostly green at this point. We have dropped crop severely this year, passing through each block twice already and a third pass may be needed. Yields will be low to try and maximize concentration in a challenging year. Will the fruit ripen in time? Will we harvest old vines at all this year? Will this be the greatest or most troublesome vintage in Oregon’s history? Only time will tell. We know from experience that the vintage quality is never written in stone until all of the wine is in the barrels.
But that’s why you are here, and together we will share this vintage and all of its ups and downs as it unfolds. It is surely going to be a wild-ride regardless of the outcome.
The good news is that it is now officially Oregon Chanterelle season, and in this part of the world, you have to roll with the good news. So I am sure that in the coming weeks we will grab our buckets and our rain boots and head to the Oregon coast range for a Chanterelle excursion. There is nothing quite like Oregon Chanterelles and Oregon Pinot Noir; a match truly made in heaven.
Cheers to a great harvest! Cheers to my crew who are eager to begin! And Cheers to you for all of your support!
Here we go.