This year was the second year in-a-row for late bloom, with bud break late by 3 weeks due to a cold Spring and bloom being equally late. The growing season was warm and dry, with no heat spikes. This translated to ripening fruit without huge gains in sugar and losses of fruit acids. But, this harvest is as late as 2010, and yet that may actually be encouraging, since as Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, after visiting us and several other bellwethers in the valley last month, observed in a blog introduced by “Harvey Steiman concludes his Oregon winery visits with more stunning 2010 Pinot Noirs: The lightness and flavor intensity of the 2010 Pinot Noirs present a rare combination–Those who like a rich, ripe style of Pinot Noir, by all accounts the majority of wine drinkers, may discover in the Oregon 2010s that lightness is a virtue, because the wines also display fully formed flavors and don’t fade on the finish. Champions of low-alcohol Pinot Noirs are going to love the light, graceful structures, holding the 2010s up as examples of what Pinot Noir should be in the New World.”
We historically begin to harvest Pinot Noir the last week of September, and this year’s first pick of Pinot, similar to last year’s October 19th was yesterday, October 24th. We have begun systematically pulling fruit off in order, as they begin to show good flavors. Corral Creek’s mid-flank Home Block is the first Pinot picked, with a few spots at Stoller exhibiting botrytis driving picking that today and for the rest of the week. Wind Ridge will begin late this week and Ridgecrest will start next week–a condensed vintage with sunshine to accent it.
Weather So Far
We have perfect Fall and final ripening weather now. The highs are upper-fifties to mid-sixties, with lows in the mid-thirties. Beginning yesterday, we have no cumulative heat gain, with fruit now getting hangtime alone and no bumps to sugar. But the weather is sunny, with blue skies and no rain to speak of in the last couple weeks and another 10 days likely without a significant rainfall threat. And grapes are very nearly ripe, with great acids and low sugars.
Degree-day levels (a measure of cumulative heat for a growing season) are higher in 2011 (2026 degree-days) than 2010 (1820) AND 2008 (1959) at this point (click to enlarge graph at right), so phenologically the fruit should be close to ripe. Rainfall for September and October-to-date is 2.58 inches for 2011, compared to an average of 4.0 inches for the last seven years (6.8 in 2010, 2.4 in 2009, 2.21 in 2008), so botrytis pressure is minimal in most vineyards and flavors remain concentrated. Bird pressure, which was significant last year, does NOT (knock on wood) seem to be a problem this year. Vineyard yields are estimated between 2.25 and 2.50 tons per acre.