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!