Growing wine grapes presents different challenges every growing season. This year is no exception, starting with the most widespread frost event in the Willamette Valley since 1980. The frost was followed by a very wet, cold spring, stalling growth in April, May, and early June, which delayed flowering 3-4 weeks later than usual.
The result will be a later start to harvest. We anticipate most of our blocks being picked in mid-late October, compared with early-mid September in the last several years. Add in very humid weather in late June & July elevating mildew pressure to very high levels…well you get the picture.
Normally by this time in August, the red wine clusters (like Pinot Noir) have gone through veraison, where color change occurs, and grapes transition from berry growth to berry ripening. See the picture above taken Wednesday August 24th at ANA in Dundee, our warmest/earliest site, color change has not even begun yet. We expect to see it starting over the coming weeks.
With the frost reducing the crop size in many Willamette Valley vineyards, one challenge has been determining a crop estimate so we can be prepared for harvest processing. In 2021, a large crop year, we pulled in ~196 tons from blocks we farm. We now have been able to do a ‘best estimate’ of this year’s crop, ~140 tons. Since the spring frost resulted in a very irregular fruit set, doing formal estimates based on sampling was not practical, we have been reduced to visual estimates, performed by Vicente Mora, our vineyard manager. We are estimating ~140 tons from our farmed blocks, a 28.6% reduction from last year. Not as bad as we feared, but just a best guess at this point. The Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc blocks seem to be close to normal, probably due to slightly later budbreak resulting in less green tissue exposed to the frost.
People often ask me when is a good time to visit Oregon, and the winery and tasting room. All times of year offer interesting perspectives, but the month leading up to harvest is certainly one of the more interesting times. Fruit hanging on the vine that has changed color makes it easy to see the crop. Visiting during harvest is also quite interesting. As you walk towards the tasting room you will look down on the harvest crew, punching down fermenters, sorting fruit, and the many other harvest activities under way.