For all the impending flood, get-out-your-ark predictions just before harvesting began, this has been a stellar vintage, without rain effects or severe temperatures at either extreme. And I can be bold enough to say this now, since as of yesterday all Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Gamay noir and Gruner veltliner has been harvested and is safely under roof.
As you might guess, this has happened quickly, with youngest-to-oldest and lowest-to-highest elevation vineyards coming in withiin a span of 19 days. With only one block of Chardonnay and three blocks of Riesling hanging into this week, plus several red ferments already pressed out, we can feel confident in making a proud assessment of 2008. And this year’s harvest interns get high marks for responding well in a late and intense harvest period. With broad talent and a diverse set of backgrounds, this is an exceptional crew:
- Mary Bruce — a New Zealand native from the western coast of the South Island, Mary has studied Vit and Oenology at Lincoln University, in Christchurch, and worked at several well-known wineries such as Pegasus Bay and Chard Farm. She spent a year abroad in high school in Germany, as well as investigating other fields such as nursing, before deciding a passion for wine dictated this field. With lab skills and stamina to outlast anyone on the crew, she continues to prove her versatility. All this in 23 years.
- Michael Sweetlove — Michael brings the technical engineering skills of a first career, the maturity of a seasoned, hard-working professional, and a relatively new-found passion for wine and viticulture to harvest at Chehalem. Also a Kiwi, native to the Auckland area of the North Island, Michael brought an insatiable need to know and prove facts to his second career, having completed a Masters degree and beginning a PhD in wine science, focusing on climate impacts on wine aromatics. He and his wife Jean, who adds great insight from years in vineyards while she tours the region during this harvest, search out travel experiences annually, from Bordeaux to Australia to Oregon, with outside interests that run from running marathons to competitive target shooting.
- Tom Lightfoot — From Australia (Victoria), Tom carries that perfect balance of intelligence, congenial nature, and physical robustness that helps anneal a team such as a harvest crew. Raised on a vineyard and farm in Victoria, he has a viticulture degree and is working on an enology degree from LaTrobe University in Melbourne, as well as experience in regions as far-ranging as Yarra Valley, Barossa Valley and Sonoma Valley (Dry Creek). A skier and Australian Rules Football player, he could perhaps life a two-ton fermentor without the forklift. He has the vision of starting a winery, plus the common sense to believe “good winemaking comes through years of experience and not just through the pages of a textbook.”
- Danielle Casey — An American newly graduated from university in dance and literature, Danielle has worked in restaurants and retail wine shop environments enough to have caught the wine bug. She worked last harvest at our neighbor Eric Hamacher’s winery in Carlton, returning this year for more experience in Oregon wine. A native of the East Coast, Danielle personifies the crossover of arts of which wine consists.
- Greg Martin — Another American with a richly diverse background, Greg is a degreed chef and our resident troubador, with a seeming background in most artistic disciplines. He also worked at Hamacher’s Carlton Winemaker’s Studio with Danielle last year, as well as in Central Otago in New Zealand with Rockburn winemaker and past Chehalem harvest intern Macolm Francis (2003). He is a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
- Minoru Numata — Coming the farthest, Minoru is a wine professional in Japan who has extensive wine sales experience in Tokyo and wine-judging experience, and now is determined to gain technical experience in winemaking. He has spent time at Lincoln University in NZ and, after harvest in Oregon, will return to begin technical winemaking graduate work. With his background, his willingness to do any task here for the month he is scheduled to stay indicates the common theme of passion and hard work that characterizes this harvest crew. We appreciate Minoru’s cheerfulness.
With long hours at this stage and a few days before we crest the hill of work for the vintage, it is good we have such a strong crew. Of course, the core of the team remains Mike, Brian and Ksenija, who themselves began here as interns in 2001, 2006 and 2007, respectively.
A bright and sunny Sunday, today characterizes well the excellent, disease-free, classic cool climate weather we can now call 2008.
Weather over the last week has likewise largely been crisp and sunny, with an average high of 63F and low of 39F, with 0.15 inches of rain (over 4 days). The hangtime has brought ripe flavors, sugar accumulation has been minimal and acids have been maintained. General chemistries of Pinot noir have centered on 23+brix, 3.25 pH, and 7 g/L TA — parameters suited for structured/aging wines.
We have had only 1.46 inches of rain total, at the McMinnville weather station, since harvest began September 30.
A very cool growing year, with degree day accumulations through Oct 18 being 1957 DD this year, versus 2166 in 2005, 2004 in 1999, and 1970 for the 1961-90 period, 2008 wines look well extracted for reds and brightly fruit-driven for whites