Should Hit Full Tilt Next Week with the Arrival of Grapes from Washington
The Oregon wine grape harvest began yesterday morning around 9:30 a.m. at The Carlton Winemakers Studio with the arrival of four tons of Pinot Noir from Hess Creek Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. “The grapes appear to be in great condition with small berries and tight clusters,” said Alex Marchesini, who is crushing them for a highly aromatic, light, crisp, dry Pinot Rosé for Tributary Cellars. “We like to pick early to preserve natural acidity and then ferment without additions in stainless steel tanks,” he said.
Alex Marchesini’s Pinot Noir waiting for the press at The Carlton Winemakers Studio.
First juice of the season: Dundee Hills Pinot Noir Rose’ for Tributary Cellars.
While the studio’s winemakers are seeing some slight sunburn on grapes in certain areas of the Willamette Valley, the heat of the past several days has not been a problem. They are closely watching the smoke from the nearby Eagle Creek fire, which is leaving a light coating of ash on some grapevines in the area. Winemaker Andrew Rich of Andrew Rich Wines drove to the state of Washington early Monday morning to check on the progress of Syrah in three vineyards and was shocked on his way home by the progression of the blaze.
“It was hazy all day in Yakima and on Red Mountain, with the faint scent of smoke in the air, but that’s not all that unusual, and I didn’t think much more about Eagle Creek. By the time I headed home, though, I-84 had been closed from Hood River to Troutdale, and I could see the fires burning the hillsides across the river,” Rich said. “Turns out some ash has reached the vineyards in the Willamette Valley, but I don’t expect that it will have an impact on the wine. We can expect some rain showers between now and harvest and, in my 20 years of experience working with Washington grapes, smoke taint has never occurred despite some relatively smoky years. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the criminal loss of the Columbia Gorge landscape.”
Andrew Rich (left) and Assistant Winemaker Hans Van Dale prepare their first grape samples of Washington Syrah from Ciel du Cheval and Red Willow Vineyards.
More grapes are expected to arrive at The Carlton Winemakers Studio from Oregon and Washington sometime in the next week. The winery should be crushing regularly by the end of September.
Snapshot of the 2017 Growing Season
Over the past two weeks we gathered input from a few of The Studio’s other winery clients based in Oregon about the growing season, asking for a glimpse into their preparations for picking in the Willamette Valley. It’s a good snapshot of what’s happening here near The Studio’s home in Carlton and shows the diversity of our clients and their approaches to vineyard management and winemaking.
Kristen Lumpkin, Lazy River Vineyards
Kristen Lumpkin and her husband Ned own The Carlton Winemakers Studio with partners Eric Hamacher and Luiza Ponzi. Ned was also the general contractor for The Studio, which was completed in six months just in time for the 2002 harvest. 2017 marks the Lumpkins 15th vintage at Lazy River Vineyards!
While the Lumpkins produce wine under their own label, they also provide fruit for several clients including Panther Creek, Elizabeth Chambers, Lingua Franca, and Twomey (Silver Oak), just to name a few. Pruning and watering are two of the many harvest preparations in their vineyard and the Lumpkins are especially careful to follow the directions of their winemaker clients as most of the fruit is sold.
On August 24th, she provided us this snapshot of work in the vineyard located steep south facing slope of Mt. Richmond in the Northwest Willamette Valley:
“It’s around 8 a.m. and from half-mile away on our vineyard hill I heard the faint, gentle talk of the vineyard crew, undoubtedly dropping fruit. Our vines carry a huge number of grape clusters, enough that the flavor and quality of the wine they will produce would be diminished if they were all allowed to ripen. So, heartbreaking as it is, off come whole clusters, wings and thirds. Off come the clusters with such immature grapes they will never ripen. Sounds like another language and it is.
Wings. Envision a cluster of grapes, one side of the bunch is longer with a smaller side bunch. In our pinot noir that smaller bunch is dropped, because it is likely it will ripen at a slower rate than the large bunch. This affects the sugar levels, bigger are higher, smaller are lower. However, there are exceptions. Some winemakers like a bit more acid, so they retain some of the wings. Thirds? A shoot is the branch of the vine which bears the clusters of grapes. Producers leave two clusters and clip off the third. The third likely will not ripen to our satisfaction.
One can also understand the topography of our vineyard as harvest approaches. Areas of foliage are a darker green where the soils are deep and hold moisture well. Other areas are a lighter green, where rocks may reach closer to the surface. The level of moisture in the soil is monitored, so that the shallower areas can get a drink via a drip irrigation system that is separate from the overall drip irrigation system for all 40 acres of vines.”
Tom Fitzpatrick, Elévée Winegrowers
The Elévée Vineyard was originally planted in 1998 by Archery Summit under the direction of Gary Andrus. It was purchased by Tom and France Fitzpatrick in 2008 and renamed it Elévée. The couple personally handles the management and most of the farming of the four-acre site in the Dundee Hills.
“Last winter’s wet conditions led to soils significantly charged with water at the start of the growing season in early May. Unseasonably warm temperatures combined with these charged soils, resulting in extremely rapid vine growth. As a result, it was difficult to keep up with trellis work at Élevée Vineyard this season. The negative effects of our President’s immigration policies on labor further fueled these challenges. Large leaves and vigorous canopies were easily remedied with extra hedging and leaf pulling, a necessity on our extremely high-density site.
By June the tides had turned and almost no measurable precipitation was recorded for the months of June, July, and August to date. For those of us that dry farm, drought stress is the primary concern as we head towards harvest, particularly for our high-density Élevée Vineyard.
With 50 percent bloom on June 22nd, I have been anticipating a harvest right around October 10th (110 days from bloom). With only 20% veraison as of August 21st, we still seem on track for an October 10th harvest.
Continued dry conditions and more excessive heat could advance the start of harvest for us. However, almost anything is still possible… mother nature has been known to abruptly change the course of a vintage in the final weeks of the year.”
Matt Driscoll, WildAire
Matt and Jean Driscoll source their Pinot Noir from two outstanding Yamhill-Carlton locations: Yates Conwill Vineyard and Fairsing Vineyard. Matt Driscoll, Winemaker and Owner of WildAire echoed Tom’s comments about the shifting weather patterns in Oregon this growing season.
“2017 began with cool and very rainy conditions for the early part of the year with rainfall totals coming in as the second highest in recorded history. The cool weather also pushed bud break two to three weeks behind a typical Spring.
My concern early on was that the high amount of available water might create excessive vigor during bloom which could lead to a poor fruit set. Thankfully, we had great weather during bloom and there didn’t seem to be any loss of crop at fruit set.
The weather held for the early Summer with highs in the mid to lower 80’s and no precipitation. We had a heat spike in early August with temperatures reaching 108 degrees in some spots. One of our sources, Yates Conwill Vineyard located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, is generally a warmer site and fortunately has adequate leaf shading on the western sides of the vines which has kept our fruit protected from sunburn.
In mid-August we took cluster samples to check our crop load estimates and it looks like we’ll have an ample amount of fruit this year. The clusters are slightly above average in size and are looking beautiful right now with veraison fully underway. We are very pleased with how the vintage is progressing and we expect to begin harvesting the last week of September. The wines should be gorgeous!”
Verasion underway in the Yates Conwill Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
WildAire sources Clone 777 Pinot Noir from this block of the south facing Yates Conwill Vineyard.