2015 started warmer and drier than average due to the strengthening El Niño. This led to the earliest budbreak on record in March, a month earlier than average. Spring was typical for Oregon with alternating rain and sunshine that helped top up the soil moisture and slow development. Warmer conditions at the start of summer made for rapid bloom with excellent set and the weather stayed dry and warm all the way to harvest. 2015 was the earliest harvest we've seen in decades, and hot conditions put a bit of pressure on picking, but there was a distinct cool down mid-harvest allowing the grapes to hang longer to develop phenolic and flavor ripeness. All in all, the quality for the 2015 vintage in Oregon was exceptional with fantastic phenolic development, balanced sugars and acids.
2014 started out quick and warm with early budbreak. Exceptional weather conditions set very large potential crop across the state, requiring much crop thinning. The summer turned out to be the warmest in Oregon’s history, yet it was without a real heatwave. Veraison occurred three weeks earlier than 2011, under warm and sunny skies. At the start of harvest, the fruit was perfect: perfect chemistry, perfect flavors, perfect health. Conditions during ripening were dry and sunny and grapes were able to be picked at optimum ripeness with no pressure from disease or weather. Both quality and quantity were high and the 2014 vintage in Oregon could be counted as among the largest and finest this state has ever seen producing wines of tremendous depth, balance and focus that will age for years.
2013 started off with a dry winter and an early spring. The arid conditions were a concern for most dry farmers but rain in May topped up the soil to carry the vines through the rest of the season. Budburst and bloom in Southern Oregon and the Columbia Gorge was early and aided by warm, dry weather that allowed for a great set and higher than normal yields. The Willamette Valley was also early with bloom but experienced a series of fronts which reduced set and lowered yields at most sites. Late season weather in the Willamette Valley caused some logistical challenges at harvest but helped to slow down the ripening. The warm, dry summer combined with an early season start, developed great color, flavor, and tannin ripeness.
The 2012 Oregon growing season returned to normalcy after two wild, late years. A normal budbreak launched a classic Oregon spring - 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 crop through shatter. Pinot Gris was hit the hardest with significant reduction in crop size. We enjoyed a true summer with very warm weather and no rain for the first time in two years. As harvest started, heat in the Rogue Valley and the Columbia Gorge pushed 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?