The tortoise and the hare

Bergstrom Winery Block post-harvest on a beautiful sunny fall day in the Willamette Valley.

Bergstrom Winery Block post-harvest on a beautiful sunny fall day in the Willamette Valley.

One month ago it looked as if this vintage would be an “off to the races” type of a year. We had experienced so much heat and sunshine that an early and uber-ripe vintage just seemed inevitable. I am not a big fan of those types of years as the wines tend to show more alcoholic prowess rather than complex flavors. Sure, they have their place….and they are fun to drink young. I prefer the slower vintages that take time and build flavor and complexities through several weather events.

It’s a tortoise and the hare type of a scenario but there is really no real clear winner, only a different outcome. The hot and fast vintages for Oregon Pinot Noir usually make wines that will also drink fast and age fast. These are hedonistic fruit-driven wines that should be drunk fairly quickly (2003 and 2006 come to mind.) The slower vintages that creep along into October and even towards November tend to give slower wines….or wines that take a while to come around and will drink/age well for a long time. 2007 and 2005 come to mind. These are my favorite and oddly enough, 2009 is beginning to show some promise of slowing down.

In a strange turn of events, the hottest year on record which gave us over 25 days above 90 degrees fahrenheit and dehydrating East winds, has now cooled down and we are settling in to a fifteen day trend which is much more familiar for our area. We are expecting some showers now and some cool daytime temperatures in the mid to high 60’s as well as very cold over-night lows into the 40’s. The sugars in the vineyard have stopped spiking and now perhaps we can have some positive hangtime where these high sugared grapes can begin to build some complexities and deep flavors.

We have harvested roughly 20% of our harvest so far. I have no picking scheduled for the next five days. We have harvested the youngest vines which have come in very ripe and surprisingly rich. Unlike 2003, these wines have better structure and more integrity. These first picks remind me of 2006 for sure. But looking to the fields where we have the majority of our estate fruit still hanging and all of our older vines still hanging, sugars are great, acidities are hanging in there and flavors are really starting to come on. With the extended forecast calling for cool and slow, we may be in store for a very special kind of a year here.

Posted in Harvest 2009