Archive for September, 2014

Sunshine makes for a beautiful finish to ’14

I pulled into our daughter’s school yesterday afternoon, right alongside a winemaker who was also picking his kids up.

“You busy workin’ hard out there?” I asked, knowingly with a smile.  Of course he had been working hard, with heat like this most area wineries have already finished harvesting their fruit, bringing them knee deep in mid-fermentation by now.

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Bottling last year’s vintage while making this one…

For the past 10 days, I’ve been hauling fruit from picking crews in six of our seven Willamette Valley AVAs and it’s all coming in beautiful. Dry warm weather conditions throughout the growing season have put the industry ahead of schedule by at least two weeks. This has been both a blessing and a curse for some local wineries.

Many area winemakers plan their bottling schedule only a few weeks before they plan on picking the first fruit of the season. Since the vintage has come early this year, these same winemakers have found themselves scrambling to bottle last year’s vintage while processing the fruit for this year’s wine. It’s a logistical nightmare. A lot of winery harvest crews are getting their mettle tested. They can handle it. It simply boils down to some very late nights and some even earlier mornings.

The upside to this challenge is that the 2014 winery crew gets to be part of a team that both bottles last year’s vintage and makes this year’s wine. This year could be considered very good to excellent by many experts’ standards. Truth be told, we’ve really only just begun and it’s very difficult to make those claims

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A Little Rain Won’t Hurt

Harvest is fully in motion this weekend, and you can feel the buzzzz all over the Valley.  Large flat bed trucks haul empty bins early in the morning to vineyard sites, fill them up and haul them back to their respective wineries or custom crush facilities.  Finding workers to pick the ripe fruit has been a challenge for the last few years, with a shortage of able bodied and willing laborers around to fill the need around harvest.  Vineyard managers can get pretty stressed right about now, as they duke it out with their neighbors to find good help!  Those wineries with just enough property to require full-time help year round don’t feel quite the labor strain, but the reality is when the fruit is ripe, you’ve really got to move fast in order to get it in quick before pH levels rise up dangerously high on the vine.  Right now, in the middle of harvesting your fruit, following the 10-day forecast can either make or break a (wo)man.  It will greatly influence picking decisions, sometimes being the determining factor in fates and futures.  The rains will come, but OH MY, they’re on their way now.  Tuesday evening to be exact.  There’s a 99% chance of rain, just 2 days away.  With the bulk of the Northern Willamette Valley having really started to hit ripeness late last week, this will be interesting.

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Harvest 2014 is upon us

As of this week, harvest is officially underway in the Northern Willamette Valley.

That’s not to say that everyone is picking.  We brought in a few tons of Chasselas Dore and Muscat Ottonel at just under 18 brix over the weekend, but everything else is still out there enjoying the last days of pristine sunshine before we bring the fruit in to the winery.  Picking at 18 brix will give wonderfully bright, low alcohol wines, which is why those varietals are generally harvested so much earlier than the rest.  The aromas of freshly fermenting Muscat Ottonel in the production room serve as an aperitivo to what will surely come, quite soon.  Clipping clusters of Chasselas in the Dundee Hills last week, the guys recounted their memories of when they last picked this early – noventa y dos – 1992.  That is not to say that this year’s harvest is quite as early as ’92, which began September 5th, and progressed very steadily in order to avoid pH and sugar levels rising up dangerously high.  No, this early pick was relaxed, fun and a good couple weeks before anything else will come – a ‘family pick’ to kick off the season.  The flavors in the grapes were soft, and the bright acids and low sugar levels will produce refreshing wines at under 10% alcohol.