The smallest pick

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!

Posted in Harvest 2010, Josh.