October 25, 2015

Harvest 2015: Introduction

Eola Hills harvest sunset, looking to the Van Duzer gap in the Coast Range
I learned it again this year, after the earliest and hottest Willamette Valley summer in memory, the same lesson of every season, even the coldest, latest harvest on record a few years ago and every year since.

Yes, always. 

Somehow, against all seeming odds, the grape harvest always works out. I learn it, believe it, then apparently have to learn it again each year. 

I don't mean to invite a true agricultural disaster. Perhaps in some year to come the crop will truly fail. But would we not continue on regardless? Yes, future unconditional tense.

Things during the year aren't always so clear. All anyone could talk about this year was the heat, how we had no winter, how spring came earlier than ever and would we be harvesting raisins in August?

The truth is always something a little different.

I think certain events this year help explain the wines I have resting in the cellar after we indeed had the earlier harvest I've heard of in Oregon (maybe '92 was earlier?). 

I'm amazed that no lot of grapes came in with higher sugars than I'd like. None came in without the acidity I desire. And everything tasted ripe or frankly ripe enough. Think of medium rare meat, that's how I like my ripeness.

The summer of 2014 was hot and gave the earliest harvest I'd seen. I started picking on September 13 last year. Then fall hit hard and winter even came briefly with some sneaky cold nights in late November and December. We did have winter, though it was short.

Rains didn't translate into mountain snow, and when January arrived with March-like weather, local ski slopes were bare and growers were quick to prune in anticipation of a very early budbreak.

Budbreak in mid-March 2015 in my rows at Zenith Vineyard 
Sure enough the vines woke from their winter naps in mid-March, a full month earlier than normal. Then flowering, when the grapes set on the vine, happened a month early in May. Color change in the red grapes, or veraison, in July instead of August. 

Everything was happening early, but would the critical event happen, again any prediction? Would fall come early as well so we could pick cold fruit that ripened slowly at the end of the season?

Incredibly, that's what happened. Around August 28, it's like the summer switch flipped to fall. Sure we had some warm days in September, but only after unusually cool weather around Labor Day that set a fall tone for the rest of the season.

Harvest began a full eight days earlier than last year, on September 5 with approximately 5 tons of Pinot Noir from Armstrong Vineyard on Ribbon Ridge. 

How did all the fruit turn out? How did everything ferment? And how was it largely working on my own making 23 tons worth of wine, full time, no longer balancing a day job?

Stay tuned. I promise to continue, it's definitely worth it.

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