The 2012 Oregon growing season was a return to normalcy after two wild, late years. A normal budbreak launched us into a spring that was classic Oregon periods of warm sunny weather followed by cooler rainy weather. There was a touch of frost but budbreak was quick and uniform followed by a drawn out flowering. Poor weather during some periods of set reduced the crop through shatter. Pinot Gris was hit the hardest and we saw significant reduction in crop size for this variety. We enjoyed a true summer with very warm weather for the first time in two years and no rain through July, August and September. As the harvest started, the heat in the Rogue Valley and the Columbia Gorge pushed the vines into overdrive. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris came in fast and furious starting in the third week of September. A bit of a cooling period followed and harvesting slowed down with picking beginning in the Willamette Valley around the first week of October. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris came in hand in hand for the Willamette Valley with perfect ripeness and low yields. Chardonnay took the longest and we even saw a bit of rain that cooled things off as we mostly closed out the Willamette Valley harvest in the third week of October. All in all 2012 will be remembered as a classic Oregon vintage with great weather at harvest and low yields. The fruit was ripe, sound and very healthy. Little sorting was needed and the flavors were intense.
2011 was a year of records and extremes. The growing season was the latest and coolest ever in Oregon except for one oddity budbreak was earlier than average with a big set. This, with the very cool growing season, led to higher costs in the vineyard: additional passes for vinework, natural sprays and weed control. The industry feared the most difficult harvest since 1984 but fair weather held through mid-November with a surprising result where both quality and quantity prevailed and grapes achieved full phenolic ripeness with little to no rot. The resulting wines are complex, intensely flavored, possess great texture and depth, and have lower alcohol than average. The reds in particular are darkly colored and will be long lived. 2011 will be remembered as a late, dry, "miracle" harvest.
The 2010 vintage is a story that is easier to read from end to beginning. It was a vintage where experience and hard work in the vineyards paid off. The growing season started off cold and wet pushing vine development back by three weeks and as spring turned into summer the conditions didn't get much better. The extra efforts to get through the hurdles (frost, mildew, weeds, late bud break & flowering) were redoubled as summer sun jump-started the vines into quick growth. Multiple passes through the vineyards were necessary to shoot thin, shoot position & cut back excessive growth. In early October, we started harvesting in Southern Oregon under clear and beautiful skies. As harvest progressed from Southern Oregon into the Gorge and then finally to the Willamette Valley, the weather for the most part held and we were able to bring in beautifully ripe fruit with lower sugar (read lower alcohol) than average. Yields were lower than expected due to early season weather and subsequent crop thinning to adjust for the shorter growing season. A to Z averaged only 2.5 tons per acre in 2010 and these low yields provided fruit with great concentration and balance. Southern Oregon stayed dry during harvest and in fact it was one of the best vintages we have seen from there. In 2010 we were rewarded with gorgeous wines with more concentration and depth, combined with a very crystalline structure with great purity everything we could ask for in a vintage. Who doesn't love a happy ending?
Spring blossomed in 2009 gloriously warm boosting the vines into early budbreak. Summer stayed warm occasionally punctuated by rain until the heat came in earnest with record highs. The first part of August cooled down with rain followed by sun until Labor Day when a late summer heat wave pushed temperatures back into the 90's. We achieved almost record hang time in most vineyards creating much work and green thinning passes in the vineyards to keep yields in line at an average of 2.5 tons per acre. It was a long harvest and the results can be tasted in the wines which exhibit elegance, beautiful balance and softness.
Throughout the state, the 2008 growing season will be a vintage to remember. Although budbreak was pushed back in the northern part of the state, Southern Oregon vineyards were right on time. By bloom, sunny weather brought the Willamette Valley vineyards up to speed. The Willamette Valley experienced one of the longest harvests on record but in some Southern Oregon vineyards harvest was nipped a bit early with frost. Due to very small berries, the Northern part of the state brought in lower than projected yields measuring 1-1.5 tons per acre. Southern Oregon experienced a larger crop around 3 tons per acre. Throw in the lateness of the vintage, the absolute fantastic weather and the lack of disease and, all in all, the 2008 vintage is one for the record books.
A wet damp spring necessitated more sprays than normal to keep mildew at bay in a challenging year. We had great weather for flowering and set a good crop in the Willamette Valley although the Southern Oregon crop was smaller and had a reduction in cluster and berry size. Harvest was difficult with slow picking around storms. For those who kept up with the summer’s challenges, contained the disease pressure and waited to pick, there was little rot and some high brix levels in the vineyards. We closed out the harvest in the Willamette Valley on Halloween. Southern Oregon was a different story with great weather and a slow even ripening of epic importance even besting the great 2006 vintage.
The 2006 Oregon growing season started late and wet but offered great weather for flowering setting the largest crop that we have seen in a few years with abundant but not large clusters. A gorgeous summer heated dramatically in June and July, but cooled appreciably in August to begin a soft slow slide into harvest. The Willamette Valley heated up again pushing the small berries into overdrive and launching an early harvest for Pinot noir. Whites benefited from some cooling and a bit of rain taking their time to retain beautiful acid/ripeness balance. Southern Oregon never heated up like the Willamette Valley and enjoyed a slow, even, full ripening of epic importance creating the finest vintage in recent memory there.
Cold, wet weather made for a late budbreak and flowering with shatter that translated into low yields for the second year in a row. Mildew threatened into July with a cooler summer than normal. It turned hotter towards the end of August and the beginning of September but picking did not begin until October. It was then interrupted by a bit of rain and cold but finished gloriously well into November under beautiful skies. These ended up being some of the best wines we have seen for years.
The 2004 vintage was anything but typical. The spring was early and warm. However, rain during flowering resulted in the worst shatter Oregon has experienced for years bringing very low yields, about half of normal. A hot summer seemed to promise an early harvest and for a small portion it did before the weather turned cold and rainy. Luckily the rain did not last that long and we were able to harvest well into October under beautiful skies. The wines from this vintage will be classical Oregon.
The 2003 vintage was the most interesting harvest since 1997. The growing season can be summed up with one word: hot. Spring was warm so that budbreak and flowering progressed unimpeded to yield an abundant crop. Summer brought hot weather that lasted through most of harvest, which was accelerated by a hot east wind. Higher elevations and older vineyards ripened more slowly but generally harvest came on quickly. The clusters were perfect with more tropical and mango notes than normal. The slight dehydration of the grapes made for more concentrated flavors and, most importantly, an underlying ripe acidity making for a tremendous vintage.
The 2002 vintage was blessed with a faultless growing season that carried into a beautiful harvest. The fine weather at harvest not only allowed the grapes to be picked when they achieved a brilliant amount of sugar but also when the flavors and tannins had become truly physiologically ripe. Healthy, concentrated, and thick-skinned, the clusters were incredible. All over Oregon the 2002 vintage was near perfect and will certainly be remembered as one of the best in the history of this relatively new area of Oregon viticulture.
The 2001 was a difficult growing season, which, luckily, morphed into a beautiful harvest. The spring of 2001 was challenging due to heavy and constant rains necessitating much work in the vineyard. The late spring turned into a cool and late summer. However, the sun came out for harvest and while some of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir suffered in the heat, mostly healthy and concentrated small berried bunches were brought to the winery in nearly faultless condition.