This is the first Harvest Page for this year, and it’s the latest ever — both Harvest Page and Vintage — in the now 11th year of reporting to you.

With patience being a great virtue in winemaking, very little fruit has been picked over the last two weeks, at least until later this week. Most of us have been around for awhile and pick not out of fear of rain, but out of excitement for flavors and good numbers (brix, pH and TA — i.e., sugars and acids). And considering a bud break that was 3 weeks late and bloom that was equivalently late, hangtimes predicted we wouldn’t be harvesting until the first few days of October, which is pretty right-on. (Our average hangtime between bloom and harvest for Pinot noir is in the 105-115 day range.)

Although it is dangerous to draw parallels or predict quality levels at this stage, I have been struck by the coolness and lateness similarities of 2008 to two of my favorite vintages, 1993 and 1999. So long as no unusual weather event occurs, we will be harvesting all of the remaining Pinot noir and most of the remaining Chardonnay by end of this week, and without rain damage.

The ferments from early harvested blocks have amazingly deep fruit and color extraction for the coolness of the growing season. Most flavors are on the verge of being there:

  • the sugars are amazingly moderate (i.e., not too low, not too high–just right) and promise lower alcohols
  • the acids are moderate as well, which is a surprise and possibly lower than expected due to heat spikes when the warmth finally did come late summer and the chemistry-adjusting inch of rain in early October.

We’re conservatively excited right now, but check in as harvest proceeds.

Next time I’ll review our great Harvest Intern crew for 2008, from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Texas!


Weather So Far and Today
With no measurable rainfall forecast until October 17th and our last decent rain on October 6th, we have a perfect window to harvest fruit. And we HAVE begun bringing it in apace.

The forecasts were dire a couple weeks ago, with 3-4 inches forecast over the last week or so and with only occasional bright spots into mid-to-late October. However, as is often the case, the warnings are worst case and attractive weather has asserted itself.

We have had only 1.31 inches of rain in October at the McMinnville weather station, which compares favorably to some excellent vintages such as 2004 (3.76 in during the same period) and less than an half inch more than the quintessential 2002 vintage (.85 in).

This has been a cool vintage, even cooler than last year, 2005 and even the cool, but fantastic 1999 vintage, degree day accumulations through Oct 11 being 1934 DD this year, versus 2150 in 05 and 1971 in 99. Besides being cool, the growing season began up to three weeks late, beginning at budbreak.