very human endeavor has a harvest, just ask tax accountants during tax season, or retailers awaiting holiday shopping season, or fishermen during “runs” of various species. And harvest always tests our mettle in endurance both in hard work and in our ability to coexist with others.
If you had to work Harvest 2012 at Chehalem, you would feel fortunate, considering the vineyard AND winery harvest crews. In the vineyard, the Ordaz family has been with Chehalem since the late 1980s, with all of us growing old together and with new generations jumping in during heated times like Harvest. We’re all family.
Once a year new members to the family come from all-over as harvest interns just for the two months of harvest. This year there is change to permanent staff, as Mike Eyres returned to New Zealand after 11 harvests here and Ksenija House slipped away after 5 vintages, with Wynne moving from assistant into the winemaker role and Katie Santora joining us as assistant winemaker.
For the season, the following strong, positive and assertive team has been assembled, complementary skills aplenty:
- Greg Martin—working his third harvest with us, with talents in all arenas and experience in other Oregon wineries in the intervening two harvests, it doesn’t seem like harvest without him—a skilled musician and a classically trained chef;
- Macy Coulson—a graduate of Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program, Macy moves to an Oregon harvest after Australian and several CA harvests—quietly assured and bright;
- Jess Curtin—an Australian from Melbourne’s LaTrobe University’s wine program, with experience in Victoria, New Zealand and Portugal, Jess also shows the bright, hard-working nature of this crew, plus a penchant for whiskies!;
- Mick Trask—with a strong mechanical background and two years’ experience in harvests and vineyard pruning worldwide, from Australia to New Zealand to California to Oregon, Mick is a steadying and reliable influence on the crew;
- Alex Nichols—strong, energetic and bright, Alex comes to us after harvests in New Zealand and at Adelsheim locally, after graduating with a fermentation science degree from Oregon State—very valuable, especially since he is a fantastic brewer also!;
- Felix Egerer—back for a second harvest, partly prompted by not being able to get into Pinot Noir last year before he had to return to school, Felix is in his final year at Geisenheim, Germany, is brighter than even the sun was this vintage, a natural leader and welcome back anytime he wants to come;
- Leslie McCain—here for a couple weeks, Leslie comes with a passion for wine, experience in wine retail and a willingness to pitch in and do anything—which is the job description for all of us in harvest—off the plane late night Tuesday, working 7AM the next morning;
- Steve Peterson—Steve has worked for three prior vintages, helping fill-in around his normal job and college work, volunteering for some favorite jobs, which may not exactly be others’ favorites, so the epitome of a “team player”!—quiet and nose-to-the-grindstone.
Makes my job easy with this team. Can you pass me another beer, please?
Weather and Its Implications
The gorgeous late ripening season, in which dry, warm, blue-skied days were non-stop, has transitioned suddenly to a Northwest Fall, with rain all of yesterday, from mist to steady drumming rain. We saw 0.81 inches of rain yesterday, which parched soils were glad to see. The mid-September to mid-October monthly heat measure we use saw 2012 the second warmest vintage in the last 16 (see table), while total accumulation to date is fifth highest. Lovely.
As winemakers we realize the fruit is ripe, most of it in the winery, and vineyard traction our only concern as we continue to finish the outside work. The condensed nature of harvest, just now being 11 days total, means press and destemmer processing is stretched to a limit, with winery harvest workers’ good humor still visible at this stage and with mechanical breakdowns fixed overnight by our Ridgecrest neighbor and magician, Ron Andresen.
Two dry days promise all but the late-hanging varieties like Riesling, Gruner and Gamay noir will be harvested before more rain late Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.