Category Archives: Harvest 2011
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.
Here are some recent shots taken from around the winery during the past couple of weeks:
The fermentations continue to tick along and so far, we have put some lovely Shea, Bergstrom and Le Pre du Col lots into barrel.
With much more to come, have a great day!
Dark, cold and cloudy, with thick fog today but it is our first bad weather day in three weeks and it is our final day of picking. The 2011 vintage is finally over. I know, I know….. I post only two or three blog entries at the beginning, and then you miss the middle, and then you get the end in one big lump sum. Sorry about that, but this was the most compressed and potentially difficult vintage that we have seen in Oregon’s recent history and my thoughts were focused at the task at hand.
Whew….. sigh of relief or sigh of content? I don’t know yet….. but I have a pretty good feeling about this one. The first two wines that we have put to barrel are very charming. Everything else is either still cold soaking or just starting to ferment…. I am holding my breath. A this point we are still trying to deal with sleep deprivation and cold wet clothes. I feel like this vintage aged me a bit more than usual. We are normally tired after a vintage, but we are all exhausted today.
The days have been long and hard and my team has labored valiantly for two weeks putting in 18-19 hour days of relentless and backbreaking work. Most of those early mornings and nights were below freezing temperatures and made for very hard work weighing, sorting, punching down, pumping and processing 200 tons of icy cold wine grapes. It sounds like “The Deadliest Catch” but isn’t that traumatic as we allow ourselves the luxury of eating wonderful meals and drinking fine wines between the cold, wet and dark hours of work. That and wine-grapes don’t pinch you, nor can you fall overboard… I guess.
Speaking of meals; we have been blessed this year. Blame it on my harvest in Burgundy (where each harvest meal was ritually 3-4 courses long) or my incurable hunger for the celebration of the harvest, but we have eaten, drank and celebrated very well this October and now into November. Caroline, my mom and our culinary hero Kris Utz have put together some amazing meals for us and I think that, regardless of the long hours of work, we have all put on a pound or two this year. Twice a week we have bathed ourselves in the bubbling crusty goodness of “Pizza Day” where Kris Utz, of Renaissance Catering, has wood-fire baked some amazing pies with: Oysters, Clams, pepperoni, chanterelles, bacon, butternut squash, crème fraiche, swiss chard, arugula and garlic were the guest stars. Life is so incredibly good when Pizza has got your back.
How could it be possible to not love what I do? Today I filled my first 2011 barrel of Pinot Noir. The fact that it was November 4th was already tickling my brain, but better yet is that moment in and of itself…. filling my first barrel of the year. Watching the crimson blood-like liquid fill that new barrel and have the warm blast of woodsy smoky air mingle with the sweetness of the new wine as it pushes up towards my nose and flashlight as I enviously watch the barrel fill. That is a special moment. I have done it hundreds of times for more than 13 years but every time I do it again for the first time, my pulse quickens and my breath slows; relishing the moment. Completing a year’s work is very satisfying. One barrel down, now only 300 more barrels more to fill.
The picking was fast and furious this year for sure. In a year where the weather spreads out the picking a little bit more, we will start picking at the end of September and finish around Halloween. This year, because of the short picking window and the fact that we absolutely had to hang fruit as long as possible, we all had to pick all of our fruit in a 8-12 day period which is very difficult. A vintner’s picking decision is one of the most important of the year as it will set the ripeness and thus style for the vintage. An early pick can lead to wines with higher acids, lower alcohols and more elegance, whereas a late pick can drop acidities, raise alcohols and set more concentration or ripeness and darker flavors. This year however, there was no luxury of deciding whether or not to pick early or late for style, we simply had to let the fruit hang for as long as possible without incurring massive financial losses due to rot or birds or rains. The very late season meant that we needed as much time on the vine as was possible. And I think that we may have gotten that window, much like last year in 2010.
The harvest may be over, but the work is far from done. We are looking at one more month of hard work within the winery working the fermentations, then pressing out tanks and finally filling our barrels. By Thanksgiving open house weekend we should be close to finished but there will probably be a few fermentations still kicking around.
Stay tuned for more thoughts about the vintage and the new wines. Cheers! And stay warm!
Today is Friday October 28th, 2011 and we are right in the middle of this harvest. So far we have brought in about 110 tons of fruit from our most precocious vineyard blocks in the Bergstrom Vineyard, de Lancellotti, Shea, the Winery Block, as well as all of Le Pre du Col vineyard and about one third of our Chardonnay from Anderson Family Vineyard, Carabella, de Lancellotti and the Winery Block.
The first week of harvest was very busy and we put in five 18-hour days in a row as we brought in our most ripe fruit. The Bergstrom Vineyard and de Lancellotti Vineyard early picks were slow to sort but the overall quality of the juice and musts is high, so I am optimistic. The Winery block also looked good and we decided to implement 50% whole clusters in this cuvee which is the first time that we have used so many whole bunches since 2005 and I am also happy about how that is looking and smelling. We also included whole cluster in the Shea fruit.
The earliest pick from Shea Vineyard came from Block 9 which is one of our two Wadenswil clone blocks on the East Hill. This is our ripest block every year and so it was harvested on October 23rd. The rest of Shea Vineyard will be harvested on Halloween and again on November 4th! I can’t believe that I am scheduling picking dates on November 4th (Temperance Hill is also scheduled for that date.)
The rain arrived this afternoon and it is expected to fall overnight and then clear up again in the morning giving way to one more week of great weather. It is during this final window that we plan on harvesting our higher elevation and coolest sites such as; Temperance Hill Vineyard, The Gregory Ranch, our final blocks of Shea and the rest of our Chardonnay. Three weeks ago, I was worried we would not see these vineyards come in this year….. oh me of little faith.
The Pinot Noir juices are soaking up with deep colors and lovely aromas. The Chardonnay juices are simply delicious and I am beginning to truly become excited about this vintage. But we have a long way to go. Only two tanks are fermenting at this point and those are the early picks from Shea and Bergstrom Vineyard. For the most part the winery is cold and still, save for the busy action of weighing, sorting and processing fruit.
Our crew this year is also a lot of fun to work with. We have three local guys; Justin, Ted and Nick, one local gal named Anne, one transplant from Colorado named Edward and some guest appearances from sales representatives (thanks Jeffrey!) from in and out of state. So far we are having a great time and enjoying the rush of this harvest. We are eating and drinking very well thanks to my mom, my wife and Kris Utz at Renaissance catering (Kris’s family owns the Black Walnut Inn in Dundee and he is a great chef who caters weddings, events, private parties etc…..) The crew’s antics and good nature are keeping me in stitches which is important this time of year.
Talk to you soon, or see you around the crush pad.
Here are some images that I have seen over the past two days of harvest. Everything is going very well and the fruit is looking and tasting very good. This could be a very good year and worth all of the waiting after all! The long term forecast is good and we are all in high spirits! Cheers.
Happy harvest and welcome to my annual harvest journal. Here is where you will find my thoughts, reflections and images that come from the busy harvest season. It is our thirteenth vintage at Bergstrom Wines and 2011 is sure to be special as it is the latest harvest that we have ever kicked off; today is Friday October 21st and we begin our harvest tomorrow!
For the second year in a row, Oregon experienced a cool and wet spring which has put our winegrowing efforts several weeks behind schedule right from the start. All year long we have been trying to play catch up in hopes that we would get the kind of weather in the fall that would allow us to make up for lost time that we experienced in the spring and it looks like our prayers have been answered. After a very warm and beautiful summer stretch in July, August and September, October started out with a whimper with cool temperatures, rain and the forecast for more of the same. But the skies cleared over one week ago and we have seen the sunshine and even some 70 degree days which has brought several of our vineyards’ fruit to near maturity and it is now time to start picking, after a long year of biting our nails.
2010 was very similar to this scenario and the good news there is that the 2010 wines are some of the finest that we have ever produced! The 2010 wines are almost electric in their appeal with juicy pure fruit expressions and a sweet balanced succulence that will make them extremely drinkable young but also capable of extended cellar ageing due to their lower alcohol levels and higher natural acidities. Cool and challenging vintages may be tough on the human spirit but they oftentimes yield wines that make up for all of the toil and turbulence.
I won’t sugarcoat this vintage however, as some of Oregon’s higher elevation vineyard sites are still not at the ripeness level that we would like to see for quality winemaking and unless we receive one to two more weeks of pleasant weather, without torrential rains, early frosts, outbreaks of rot, or flocks of hungry migratory birds, these vineyards will struggle and may not be harvested. If they do arrive at flavor maturity, they will be harvested in the first week or two of November which is just unheard of. I have often times harvested Riesling in November, but rarely Pinot Noir. Late harvests are always stressful but can often times yield some of our most interesting wines. Some of my favorite wines came from late vintages like 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
The entire West coast of America is experiencing difficult harvest conditions this year. Many of our colleagues down south in California are complaining of very difficult harvest conditions with widespread rot and unripe fruit in certain varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon. Washington State as well is struggling to ripen their fruit and with such a late harvest, they face the real threat of early winter frosts which could terminate the season abruptly and prematurely. That would be catastrophic for them.
The good news at Bergstrom Wines is that 85% of our fruit is ready to be harvested; high acids, low potential alcohol levels (11.5-12.5%) but great flavors and seeds that are showing good physiological lignification. As is tradition, we will start the harvest with our ripest fruit which comes from blocks 1 and 2 in the Bergstrom Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. These Dijon-clone Pinot Noir vines are always our first to ripeness and even in a year like this one can get overripe if we leave them on the vine for too long. Later that afternoon we will begin to harvest some of our finest Chardonnay blocks from de Lancellotti Vineyard, Anderson Family Vineyard and Carabella Vineyard before returning to de Lancellotti Vineyard the next day to begin the Pinot Noir harvest there. Those first two days of picking will be fast and furious and represent about 15% of our total harvest and we will probably not slow down much from there until November. The weather forecast looks favorable, and frankly, we are a little restless of waiting around.
Stay tuned for an action packed thirteenth year of winemaking at Bergstrom Wines. It could be an epic year for many vineyards and it could be a very challenging year for others. We will soon see. Cheers and happy harvesting to all!