Today is September 19th, 2015 and we are officially 35 pounds of coffee into this harvest.
We have finished the Chardonnay harvest with the Temperance Hill Vineyard which looked and tasted amazing! All Chardonnay is now in barrel happily bubbling away. The early picked Chardonnay from Le Pre du Col and the Bergstrom Vineyard are finished with their primary fermentations and beginning their secondary fermentations.
The Chardonnays this year look to be exactly what we set out to create: classic wines in aroma, texture and structure and I am very excited about their potential. Hang time between bloom and harvest was anywhere from 90-110 days which is ideal. Juices turned from pulpy green and herbaceous to golden in color with ripe flavors very quickly, so we had to be ready and in the vineyard rows sampling every day to pick each vineyard at the perfect time. Two days too late would have made totally different wines. Two years in a row, late summer vacations and market work have been cancelled in favor of harvesting Chardonnay at the perfect moment…. No regrets.
Meanwhile, Pinot Noir is cruising right along. We have picked all of the Bergstrom Vineyard, The Winery Block, Le Pre du col, 80% of Silice, 50% of Croft and three blocks of Shea. We have not touched Gregory Ranch or Temperance Hill yet. So we are still only about 70% in on the Pinot Noir.
So far we have been pro-active in our picks trying to get early fruit with higher natural acidity and low sugars, knowing that the higher sugars and lower acids would definitely come in a hot and dry year such as this one. That bet has paid off and I am happy that we have such brightness in the cellar prior to letting a lot of fruit hang 2+ weeks longer. The balance will be in the blending one year from now.
But for as hot and as dry and as long as this summer has been, the vines are not as stressed out as I would have imagined. The fruit has an equilibrium of sorts. I like what I am seeing despite worrying that most of this year would be about big alcoholic wines. They are anything but at this point. The first Pinot Noirs we have pressed off smell and taste of fruity perfume with bright and tangy acidities. Juicy and sweet but serious wines. It is hard to put a finger on this vintage just yet. We have a lot of work still in front of us.
After three weeks of harvesting it is easy to start getting into rhythms of work and staying indoors all day working with pumps and hoses and tanks and juice but it is very important to get out of doors and smell, see and experience the autumn. I often times lament that I miss the Fall because of harvest. It is right in front of me but because of cellar work, I spend a lot of my day indoors. But I love this time of year and will do anything to get out and breathe in the seasonal change that is in the air.
Autumn in Oregon brings so many sensory experiences. I love the smells and the colors and the feeling of it all. Fall here boasts sweet and pungent smells of vegetative decay mingling with forest fire smoke. As harvested grain and wet thirsty soil receives moisture for the first time the aromas are somewhere between compost, marijuana and the malty fermenting smell after a fraternity/sorority barn dance. I love it.
The sunrises and sunsets are laden with big vibrant pinks, oranges and yellows that we won’t see for several more months once winter arrives. Periodic rainbows (and double rainbows) bless the sky this time of year and light up the tired foliage on trees which is yellowing and beginning to wilt and float towards the ground. Coyotes and quail and pheasants are a daily sight in the vineyard rows now empty of fruit. Triangles of migratory birds squawk overhead on their southern trajectory. They are hungry and instinctual, sensing the seasonal change, especially with the diurnal swing in nighttime temperatures. It is a time for enjoying great meals with hearty, earthy satisfying Pinot Noir and for soaking up the fleeting light.
Nature’s calendar is in motion and we cannot do a thing to stop it. Powerless but inspired with clothes and hands stained from sweet fermenting grape juice we stand atop Calkins Lane and believe in what we do more than ever. To be a part of this age old tradition, on one of the earth’s most beautiful places is a gift and we do not take it for granted. Every day of harvest is a beautiful one and I am reminded daily that I would never trade what I do for something else.
Busy we are and busier we will be for the next week as we target the rest of our Pinot Noir. Temperance Hill, Gregory Ranch and the rest of Silice and Shea Vineyards will come in over the next 7 days. The end of the picking is near but a month of fermentation lies ahead.