I took a drive yesterday to see signs of Pinot Noir flowering in the Willamette Valley, on a beautiful summer afternoon. Usually the Pinot flowers locally in the middle of June, roughly. This year, like last year, is late following a cool, damp spring. Talking with growers over the past few weeks, I heard July 4 as a target date for flowering, as it was in 2010. There were hopeful suggestions of "by July 4, for sure, definitely" to lightly desperate humor: "if not by July 4, then, um, maybe a November harvest?"
Surely not. Conventional wisdom is that harvest might begin 100 days after flowering at a given site. Longer than that you have longer "hang time," the grapes usually benefiting from extra time to develop aromas and flavors, with riper tannin and still, if the weather is cool at night, fresh acids.
Warmer sites and younger vines can ripen a bit more quickly, but 100 days is a nice estimate for thinking of the arc of the growing season. One hundreds days from July 4 is October 12. Last year, I picked from October 8 to October 17. If flowering happens similarly this year, I think it's safe to bet we'll have a similar window for picking, later if possible if the weather holds in October, likely not too much earlier, ideally under dry conditions regardless.
Sure enough, I saw a bunch of flowering inflorescence. I first drove by a couple sites I don't work with in the northern Willamette Valley, but was curious to check out. The first site seemed maybe a third through flowering, the second perhaps half or more in the rows I saw. Exciting.
Then over Bald Peak and down to Ribbon Ridge to the Armstrong Vineyard. I was really hoping to see flowers now. I wasn't disappointed. I drove up and found grower Doug Ackerman at work at the barn and we went for a walk around the property. According to him, there were no flowers the day before, but now flowering was visible in 5 to 10% of the clusters. Surely with sunny, warm weather in store for days, flowering will be quick and even, as ideal as you could want.
Here's a cluster in the clone 667 block. Grape flowers self pollinate, so there aren't dramatic blooms or aromas in grape flowers. There is a musky fragrance if you get up really close though. You can see how some grapes have set and others haven't. An "even" set means everything will set together, so this cluster should have had more flowers by the end of the day and ideally today is in full bloom. That way, the grapes are more likely to ripen together come October.
With flowering under way in such lovely conditions, it seemed appropriate to admire the view.
And a nice moment to celebrate with the most summery of beverages, dry rose wine. Thanks Doug!