September 26, 2009

Oregon harvest update

I spent the day visiting a couple vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, sampling at one after some discussion about whether we had a good read on just where the grapes are ripeness-wise, then stopped by August Cellars outside of Newberg to check in on some friends bringing in fruit today, all before processing samples at the winery in Portland for sugar and ph levels. So...

What a gorgeous early fall day. Down I-5 to the Wheatland Ferry, always a pleasant way to cross the Willamette River to get to the heart of the Eola Hills. I first went to the Zenith Vineyard where I'm getting some Pommard clone off some younger vines. This lower site and younger block is nicely late ripening this year, which should allow for good flavor development without sugars being too high. Acids are running high this year, relatively, so that's good if you're planning to push off harvesting for a while yet.

Then north to the Walnut Hill area of the Amity Hills to check on the steep vineyard I'm getting most of my pinot from this year. I brought big ziplock bags and clippers to cut clusters from all over the vineyard for sugar and acid samples by each of the four Dijon clones planted here: 114, 115, 667 and 777. The numbers are all in the 23.5 to 24 range with ph from 3.27 to 3.40, all perfect if the flavors were more developed. The grower was suggesting we pick now, but we want to wait for another week. There's more moderate temps in the forecast, even some rain. I've learned to not rush things with pinot. The rain isn't expected to be a deluge. The grapes need more time to develop better flavors. I wouldn't be surprised to see in a week that the sugars haven't changed at all, with the ph up a bit, and the flavors that much better. That's the idea anyway.

By mid afternoon I was in Lafayette and hungry, so where better to go than Martha's for some tacos. Delicious. Then up through Newberg to August Cellars. The fruit coming in was all pinot, with one vineyard showing similar sugars and acids a few days ago to what I got from the Walnut Hill site today. But that vineyard had 9 grams of acid per liter. Looks like acids are high this year, giving me even more reason to allow for better flavor development in what I'm getting. Another producer had some grapes from a typically early site. Sugars were just above 26 brix, pretty high. But ph was in the low 3.2 range. Again, high acid that suggests we have some leeway to get less ripe vineyards further along without losing too much naturally acidity. 2006 this vintage is not, when I commonly saw fruit at 26 brix but 3.7 to 3.9 ph. Frankly, the numbers this year are weird, but perhaps weird good. We'll see.

All this means I'm not pulling in fruit until the end of this coming week, at the earliest. Which is fine by me. I'm not quite ready mentally for the harvest, and I definitely don't want to pick too soon. Another week sounds great right about now.


Paul said...

I was out at two vineyards today, both Dundee Hills. There seems to be quite a bit of dehydration going on, more in some places than other. One of these vineyards is bringing in fruit fast, the other waiting for additional flavors/ripeness, as long as possible. Also I heard mention of a storm forecast for Tuesday.


Carolyn Manning said...

Now, see? I thought making wine was all intuition and magic ... but NO ... it's math and science!

Awesome, Vincent ... really spectacular!

-Carolyn (the Mrs. Manning)

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Yep, there is dehydration. Cluster and berry size are issues too. It seems like sugars aren't as high as the dehydration I'm seeing might suggest. I'm not looking to make raisiny, thick pinot noir. But big clusters and berries would usually lead to some light, watery wines. Some dehydration might be ok to get better flavor intensity without super high sugars. The rub will be...are their raisiny flavors despite moderate sugars? The first vineyards I checked today has dehydration, but brix sampled the other day in my block was something like 22.0. This might not be a classic vintage, but I expect flavory wines that might just have the acidity to bring some finesse to the party along with intense flavors. This is a learning blog though. We'll see what happens.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Carolyn, it's lots of intuition amid the "science." Let's remember, I'm an English major, twice. The number right now say "pick." In '08, my Zenith fruit came in at 23 brix and 3.3ph. That's about perfect...assuming flavors are there. That fruit came in on Oct 18. Granted, last year was unusually late, but you're just not going to get that kind of flavor ripeness on Sept 26. So there's actually much more intuition and art going on right now...and logistics (is there a picking crew, is there a truck free to deliver grapes?). The science just helps bring some clarity to the decision making process. That, and keep people busy while things happen that no one can explain. It is pretty cool, that's for sure.