My alarm clock went off when it’s supposed to, last week of September! How was I to know this week, which is usually the “dust off the cobwebs” first pick in a traditional Willamette Valley harvest, would see the END of Harvest 2016? Our first pick this year was August 30th and our last block, Gruner Veltlliner, will likely come in September 30th or October 1st.
It’s not necessary to tell you the resulting fruit and wines will resemble their 2014 and 2015 siblings. The fruit is fully ripe, depending on your definition of ripe. We are bringing fruit in phenologically earlier these days compared to the old days when we had to nervously wait for final ripening and depended on hangtime and luck to avoid rains. Partly that and partly because fruit acids shrink faster in hot weather and our style is for balance, tension and elegance, which requires acid.
Wines will be generous, pretty AND ageable, based on initial ferments, both whites and Pinot noir. There is a concentration and density in Pinots this year not even possible in the prior two hot years. Because of smaller berry size the wines show deep color, aromas and flavors even as just-destemmed juice, not needing coarser extractive fermentation techniques for fullness.
Crop yields are slightly lower this year than the last three years, due to sketchy heat spikes at flowering and some desiccation later in ripening, but with berry size reduction attributing almost all the 15% smaller cluster weights we’ve seen. The fruit came in from all vineyard appellations at the same time this year, unlike most years when warmer sites or lower elevations preceded higher, protected sites. It was like a “break” in a game of pool, back-and-forth from all sides! Riesling’s last blocks come in today from Wind Ridge, with Gruner Veltliner harvested tomorrow, September 30th or October 1st.
Talent abounds, from Chad in the vineyard to Wynne, Katie and Greg in the winery, augmented by a hard-working harvest crew I’ll profile next time. Thanks for helping wake me. Now we’ve got to find something to do in October!
Weather & Its Implications
September weather has been normal: high temperatures averaged 77F, compared to a range of 73-81 (see the tables attached); rain was perfect with 0.47 inches, compared to a range of 0.05 to 5.2 inches (you need a little, but not the gully-washer of 2013, which happened yesterday and today three years ago); and, the sun has been bright to a point of boring.
September’s had everything you need for Harvest 2016, except a BEGINNING to harvest! It had already happened, August 30th—the earliest start ever.
Earliest-ever all the way back to Budbreak, Flowering and Veraison, begun by a warm Winter and maintained by early rains and growing season warmth.
Degree-day measures of heat accumulation in 2016 are not as hot as 2014 and 2015, but are still in that ball-park of upper Region 1 (Cool Climate) or lower Region 2 (Warm Climate). The CDD Graph attached shows graphically how 2016 stacks up against prior years. The graph at the end of the tables shows years marching upward, with 2016 still a month from the end of the measurement season of April-October. Tables show that extreme heat indicated by days over 90F, has moderated to 20 days for 2016—not as high as 2014 and 2015’s 28 or 29 days, but higher than the normal 15 days of the prior 6-7 years.
Implications: crop load, harvest timing and delicate treatment of fully mature fruit is critical.