We got the call on Tuesday, September 26 that tomorrow would be the big day – our first day of harvest – ever. At 8 a.m. on the 27th we met up with a crew of twenty or so professional pickers to receive our first ton and a quarter of fruit – the first coming off Goldschmidt vineyard blocks eight and nine made up of the Dijon 667 and 777 clones. It was a gorgeous morning – sunny and bright and a crisp 60 degrees. The picking was completed quickly and we were off to our host winery, Couer de Terre (CdT), owned by Scott and Lisa Neal. The fruit was clean and beautiful – so there wasn’t a lot of work for the sorting team (Bill, our winemaker Robert Brittan, his daughter Chelsea Brittan, who is a recent graduate of Oregon State Universities’s Viticulture and Enology program, various friends and staff of the winery and me.) In less than two hours, our first block of fruit was named WPN 01 – the W for Winderlea, the PN for Pinot Noir, the 01 for our first block; cataloged Brix, Acid, pH (think gender, weight, length for a newborn) and happily cold-soaking in the barrel room of CdT.
From September 27 through October 11, we repeated the process four more times and today we are the proud owners of nearly ten tons of fruit known as WPN 01, WPN 02, WPN 03, WPN 04, WPN 05, and last but not least, WPN 06. Don’t ask us – we don’t have a favorite – we love them equally. In time, I am sure we will love them differently. It is amazing how they have each developed their own distinctive personalities in a matter of these short days and weeks.
WPN 01 was the first to barrel on October 12. WPN 02 – WPN 06 all followed by October 28. So the six lots we nurtured so carefully during cold soak and fermentation over the past few weeks have been given over to twenty-five French oak barrels from a number of coopers, which will allow us to get to know the characteristics imparted by each.
As for Crush, Bill and I became proficient very quickly. We each staked out a critical position in the processing. I became the maven of the pre-sort and upper sort and Bill reigned supreme during the post de-stemming process. I can assure you no “unwanted” MOG (Material Other than Grape) found its way into our fermenting tanks. Each cluster and grape was meticulously inspected and only those with great beauty or great character were granted permission into our inaugural vintage.
In addition to all we learned, we made many new acquaintances during Crush. We happily helped others process their fruit at CdT – and gratefully accepted their help as well. When totes of fruit were delivered, everyone jumped in to get them sorted and processed with the same dedication and attention to detail as if they were their own. We loved the collegiality at the winery and in particular the civilized tradition the Neals have established of having everyone sit down to a real lunch each day. Everyone – vineyard workers, winery workers, winemakers, volunteers and proprietors – stopped for an hour or so each afternoon and enjoyed a great meal (with the occasional glass of wine or beer). As many Oregon winemakers will tell you, “It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine.”