October 13, 2011

Harvest approaches in the Willamette Valley

It's weird to say in mid-October that harvest hasn't really started in the Willamette Valley. Yes, some white grapes are in. The Pinot, however, waits. Along with pretty much everything else.

This year is indeed historic. Cold. Late. Essentially unprecedented. In response, growers have mostly cut back to one cluster of grapes per vine shoot. The idea is to limit the grape crop to make sure what you still have on the vines will get ripe, even in an historically cold year.

The funny thing is, flowering took place during perfect weather around July 4. Late, but perfect. As a result, grape clusters on average are well above normal. We still haven't picked, but I'm seeing 150g to 200g clusters of Pinot Noir. Usually that might be 80g to 120g or so, depending on the clones or types of Pinot Noir sub-varieties.

I'm thinking the story this year isn't the cold weather or late harvest. September was like July should have been. We've had a nice growing season. The clouds are due to break and we should have nice gusty, warm drying winds next week. Things look good on the grape front.

Once the grapes are picked, the story will be big yields even when people tried to cut back. Those big clusters, even just a handful or two per vine, add up to more tonnage per acre. If clusters are at least 50% bigger than normal, that's going to be a lot more wine to put into barrel than we might have been expecting.

As I say too much, but it's true - stay tuned.

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