The Labor day rains evaporated and seemed like a distant memory as the strong East winds blew across Western Oregon and the temperatures climbed back into the low 80’s Fahrenheit. Then the showers returned, and then more heat and then finally a lovely trend of sun, 70’s and cold nights. There is nothing like September and early October in the Willamette Valley when the weather is like it is right now. It is something to behold and absorb and keep inside of you for when the long dark wet days of winter seem like they will never end. This could be one of the most perfect places on earth. But, then again, I am from here… so potentially a little partial to this state.
Leaves are turning bright yellow, orange, pink and red. The vines are beginning to show signs of shut down. Yellowing in the canopy can be seen across our landscape and we know that Fall has definitely arrived. Perfect timing too as our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is all in and under perfect weather conditions. The migratory birds cover the telephone lines wondering where their mid-flight snack went.
We have finished our Chardonnay harvest and it was a glorious season for this varietal. We began picking on August 23rd and finished up on September 12th. We began the harvest with Bergstrom Vineyard, then progressed to Silice, went back to Bergstrom, jumped over to Le Pre du Col, came to the winery block, picked the rest of Silice and then finished up the year with Gregory Ranch and Temperance Hill. Beautiful fruit, flavors and chemistry. A potentially great year for Oregon Chardonnay if I do say so myself! I feel that the past three vintages will help to cement our Sigrid and Oregon Chardonnay in general as a definite and undeniably strong expression of this great varietal for the world. It is truly unlike any other. Oregonian Chardonnay is a new paradigm for the world of Chardonnay and this year’s strong harvest will help to prove that.
Pinot Noir started strong and then took a small break during the week of Labor Day showers and then came back on strong for a two to three week period. We started picking Pinot Noir 5 weeks before we finished picking Pinot Noir this year! That is a typical harvest for Bergstrom Wines in a vintage where Mother Nature allows you to pick at your leisure, which is something I am still not really used to. Usually as Oregonians, we are used to Mother Nature giving us an ultimatum and one of the choices is not great.
Quality was high this year with berry-raisining and desiccation of fruit at a minimum for most of our vineyard sites. There was some early sunburn in the weeks before harvest, but those berries dried up and were easily sorted from the clusters prior to harvest. The fruit was also very healthy. I did not see a single botrytis-infected cluster and although the season was plagued with mildew pressure, I did not see any mildewed berries on our sorting table. Our French interns were impressed that we were even sorting with such clean and healthy fruit. They were used to seeing much more disease on the sorting table, especially in Burgundy.
What shocks me most about this vintage was that it was not the hot harvest we were expecting. It was tracking much like 2014 and 2015 being early and dry and hot but the weather during harvest reminded me much more of 2001, 2004 or even 2008. Lots of sunshine, a passing shower or two or three and cool days and colder nights. Almost perfect conditions to get that extra bit of hang-time without compromising acidities or varietal flavor. The wines are bright but not necessarily high in acid. They are ripe, but not necessarily high in alcohol. Very fruit driven but also have earthiness and good expression of terroir. Of course, we will know more once malolactic fermentation happens but I would say that this vintage has produced some very, very good early to mid-term drinking wines. The Chardonnays could be for long term ageing and enjoyment and of course some of our single vineyards will be serious enough for the longer haul, but overall I feel that this vintage is user friendly with good quality soft tannins and supple textures.
I want to thank my harvest team of 8 very hard working people led fiercely by our tireless assistant winemaker Travis Bonilla. I oftentimes wonder where he stores all of that extra energy and positive attitude but he led our harvest team through six weeks of picking, sorting, punching, filling, draining, pressing, cleaning, dirtying, doing more cleaning and then repeating those motions about two hundred times 15-18 hours a day for 45 straight days. Always an exhausting slog but we have so much fun doing it. Kathy from Australia, Nacha from Chile, Gina from California, Adrien and Pierre-Olivier from France, Dustin from Newberg and Jessica from Carlton worked their butts off and I applaud their hard work, attitude and ambitions. They will all be someone important in the wine world someday and hopefully they will always remember 2016 here in Oregon.