We began Harvest 2009 twelve days ago, on September 21st, with first year Chardonnay from a new Stoller block. At this stage, we are less than half complete with harvest, having taken all Pinot Noir from Wind Ridge Vineyards and all but one block from Stoller Vineyards. White grapes have been picked in a steady flow, with over half of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay in-house and fermenting.

Fruit quality thus far is very good to excellent. White wines show full ripeness AND acid that is good enough to balance. Sugars are moderate to high, depending on variety and site, with average brix levels of 23-24 for Pinot Gris, 21-23 for Chardonnay, and 24-25 for Pinot Noir. Minor, manageable levels of botrytis appeared in two or three blocks, along with an amount of dessicated berries or shrivel from heat and a large crop.

There is a lull in picking at this point, having brought in the early sites, especially one or two blocks with some botrytis, plus those whose flavor ripeness matches their sugar and acid ripeness. Although there are plenty of fermentation tanks open, we are fighting impatience to get on with it, plus the tendency by some to watch and wring hands over weather reports. We expect great weather over more than the next week, so feel confident we can wait for perfect, focused ripeness, especially in vineyards without disease pressure. Crop loads are full, unlike several vintages recently like 2008 and 2005, even with major crop thinning in the late growing season.

Our harvest crew is dynamic, strong, and nimble on their feet, getting to know each other during bottling in early to mid September. Mike, Ksenija and Wynne are joined by Greg (back from last year), Beth, Merritt, and Tim. More on them in a following Harvest Page.

We’re pleased at this point, think we have logistics worked out, and are ready to bring in the second half of harvest–but not until it’s perfect. Thank you, Mother Nature for cooperating.


Weather So Far and Today

With a spit or two of rain forecast for the next day or so, before a week of sun and moderate temperatures, we have a very nice final ripening period for 2009 Harvest.

An half inch of rain in early September (0.49 inches actually at McMinnville station) helped move nutrients through vines, but also brought some botrytis to very early sites. Since then, only 0.08 inches rain have been recorded, with low to moderate temperatures for gradual ripening with hangtime. Most sites are almost ripe to taste, as flavors move from sweet, but with noticeable mineral brightness from acid, to rich and balanced. Next week’s forecast of dry, sunny and high sixties to low seventies is perfect for finishing ripening at Corral Creek and Ridgecrest, where we have not yet begun to pick Pinot Noir.

Despite heat spikes during the growing season and against the backdrop of a very cool 2008 season, 2009 has been an average vintage for heat (see Degree Day Graph), with at least 5 years being significantly warmer than 2009 in the last 12 years. We historically begin to harvest Ridgecrest Pinot Noir October 1st -15th, with this year looking like October 8-9th.