Saturday is the last day of Pinot Noir harvest, finishing two Ridgecrest Vineyards key sections, 7 Acre and Babies blocks–this being the latest harvest date for Ridgecrest over its 26 harvests. We started late, but picked almost all mature vines in 11 days, shorter than average. So, harvest interns came in at normal dates, helped bottle, twiddled thumbs a bit sampling grapes and wines, and then dove into intense work.

We are grateful to a new group of energetic and inquisitive skilled harvest help who, under the guidance of Mike, Wynne and Ksenija have driven through harvest thusfar and have another two weeks of fermentation and barreling and cleanup (always cleaning!) to go. With individual strengths, they annealed quickly as a team. Here are the key players:

Merritt Kain is rejoining us from Harvest 2009, so able to share insights and play captain of the team, as well as master chef for all, is , the gentle but driven Texan and world traveler. A U of Texas graduate in geography, he has worked in many fields, but is impressively skilled intuitively and experientially in food, so much so that he catered and developed business plans in the field since last harvest. We hope we can keep him and his gentle but driven spirit in Oregon.

Andrea Hillsey took a month sabbatical that, because of the late harvest, got extended an additional week, from work at Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe in Coral Gables, Florida, to join the harvest team. A First Team All-America 2nd baseman on Purdue’s softball team (the first All-American for Purdue in softball) as a sophomore, with Academic All-Big Ten honors for three years, Andrea’s drive and can-do spirit showed in the long hours and initiative during harvest. She refused a day off during harvest’s 2+ weeks of intense work. She and Katie adopted the Huskies for the season. A native of Wisconsin who moved to Florida for a Masters in Hospitality.

Heidi Ingelfinger heads up the lab this year, with a diverse background including harvests from California to German to South Africa, an environmental design bachelors from Syracuse University, Vit and Winery Technology degree from Napa Valley College, and far-ranging other career jobs. She and her husband J.P., who is cellar master/facilities manager at the Carlton Winemaker Studio, are friends of Wynne’s from UC-Davis, being attracted to Portland and the Oregon wine country. A theme developing over time. And we hope they stay.

Katie Hoggins is a New Zealander with a bachelors degree in enology and viticulture from Lincoln University (where Mike graduated), doubling her experience by working in the Northern Hemisphere, this year in Oregon and in two past years in France. She is bright of intellect and of spirit, embraces any task and has been a breakfast chef for the Chehalem House “dormitory” crew of Merritt, Andrea and Katie. She has worked since graduation in Marlborough, currently at Mount Riley Winery. Looking for positive comments and smiles, here’s Katie.

Aaron Chamberlain is the first of two relations shanghaied into working this harvest, because they are here in Portland, partly because of the gravitational pull it has and, of course, because of kinship. Aaron is Hilary Chamberlain Eyres’s brother, so Mike’s brother-in-law. He and his fiance, Molly, are working in two different wineries. Aaron is a hard-worker, strong, and easy-going. He is so intelligent, he’s probably deciding that winemaking is not for him. We’ll try to talk him into it.

Stephen Peterson is my nephew (and Wynne’s cousin [duh]) and has found himself in the Portland area over the last year, continuing muscial endeavors (band and composing) and also parlaying his significant poker skills into a casino dealer job. Since the latter is a night job mainly, he is bolting out of bed at 7am to meet the rest of us and work most of the day until job-one comes around at night. He is quiet, focused, hard-working, jovial and reassuring to have around. And probably lacking sleep.

The continuity and direction is provided by the talented full-time winemaking team of Mike Eyres, Wynne Peterson-Nedry and Ksenija Kostic House, with a combined 22 harvests between the three of them. This is Mike’s tenth harvest with Chehalem. And I’m drinking coffee from the forklift.

An unusual vintage, an unusually good harvest crew.


Weather So Far and Today

So far we’ve had 3.8 inches rain in the last 9 days with minor botrytis in the last fruit picked, a testament to healthy fruit going into that period of rain. Flavors are good on what has just been brought in, although 1 brix of dilution is seen in analyses–goody, we get to chaptalize a little.

The next four or five days look sunshiny: after a little rain Saturday night, there is reasonable chance that no rain will fall through Wednesday or Thursday on selected whites like Riesling and Gruner Veltliner that we’ve left for longer hangtime.  The first few days of November are normal Riesling pick times, so not as far off as Pinot Noir et al. Wednesday’s forecast high is 70F.