Weather, Pruning and Tasting – these are the things that have occupied us over the last several months since we completed Crush. Here is a quick update on the status of each.
We have experienced the range of what Mother Nature produces since October. An unusually dry, mild and sunny October changed suddenly on November 1st to a wet, wild and windy month. The record setting wet weather in the first 10 days of November gave way to a major wind storm which knocked down trees and closed roads but fortunately had no negative impact on our vines. If the rain and wind weren’t enough – November also brought us an unusual (for November) low elevation snow front. The vines were blanketed in a dusting of snow for a day or two, as you will see with some new shots of the vineyard.
Following the very wet conditions in November, the dry and mild first week of December was a welcome relief. That changed quickly with mid December bringing the strongest windstorm in a decade and a rainstorm that wreaked havoc in the valley. Again, we are happy to report the vineyard prevailed and looks no worse for wear. The rest of December remained wet leaving the area with above average precipitation for the month.
For those of you on the East Coast who recall the balmy 50 degree days of the first couple of weeks of January – the Willamette Valley struggled with 20 and 30 degree days and some record snow falls. We are now happy to report that the last several weeks have been unusually warm, dry and blissfully sunny. Views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson have been clear and splendid. And stories of pruning in driving sideways rains are unknown to us so far.
So – what is the bottom line on the weather? It is good with plenty of rain and precipitation for the health of the vineyard. In fact, the locals have told us that by January we had enough precipitation to get us through the entire 2007 growing season.
You’d think there wouldn’t be much to do in the vineyard during the winter but there is a surprising amount of work. Winter is about putting the vines in a position to produce fruit during the growing season. There is also an opportunity to learn more about the health and vigor of the vineyard this time of year. This brings us to the topic of winter pruning.
Winter Pruning, also known as Dormant Pruning, is done to begin the process of regulating the size and quality of next year’s crop. Pruning can be done at any time after the leaves have fallen from the vine and before bud break in the spring. Fruit grows from shoots that grow from one year old canes. When pruning, we are choosing the canes that will produce fruit in the coming year. We try to retain a cane that has 3 to 5 buds per foot. This determines the number of shoots that will be produced and thus the potential crop level and leaf canopy. Our goal is to have vines that are in balance so we get about two tons of perfectly ripened fruit per acre.
As a non-scientist, I can only say that this all seems somewhat complicated and, as a result, facing my thirty year old vines with very sharp pruning shears can be quite daunting. As our esteemed vineyard manager, Andy Humphrey, says, “People either get pruning or they don’t.” I fear I may be in the latter category.
Our predecessors did a wonderful job improving the quality of this vineyard. Now that we have taken stewardship, we feel a great responsibility to continue trying to make this site as good as it can be. Recently, we applied for the Low Input Viticulture and Enology Program (LIVE)™. LIVE™ promotes sustainable farming, biological diversity, and responsible stewardship. You can learn more about LIVE™ at www.liveinc.org. It is our hope that by participating in LIVE™ we will not only create a healthy ecosystem for our site but that we will also become more intimately knowledgeable about our vineyard. As most winemakers will tell you, the wine is made in the vineyard so a healthier vineyard should produce better wine.
As February winds to a close – our wines have been in barrel for nearly 4 months. During that time we have had 2 formal barrel tastings in order to follow closely the development of the wine. The importance of these two tastings is to determine if the wines have completed fermentation, to establish if there are any technical issues and finally to start making some decisions about pairing certain lots with different barrels. The first tasting was Thursday, November 30th and the second was Tuesday, February 13th. We tasted each of the 6 lots of fruit, which are aging in some 25 barrels.
Visually, all of the wines in the 6 lots were cloudy in November (which was expected at this early stage) and cleared considerably in our February review.
The first two lots we tasted are from the Goldschmidt Vineyard and the remaining four blocks from the ANA Vineyard.
Lot 1 is made up of the Dijon Clones 667 and 777. The nose on the wine is classic violet, cherries and some cranberry. On the palate the wine is dry, shows good acid and fruit.
Lot 2 is made up of the Dijon Clone 115. The nose on this wine is completely different from Lot 1 and presents a leathery and slight wood aroma. To our surprise – on the palate – the wine showed much more fruit – particularly cherries and blueberries.
Lot 3 comes from the adjacent ANA vineyard and is planted to Pommard clones. On the nose, Lot 3 is quite expressive with strawberry, cherry, mushroom and spice. On the palate an earthiness mixed with red and black berries come through. Good acid is also noted on this lot.
Lot 4 also planted to Pommard showed slightly less fruit on the nose, soft cherry notes on the palate and less acid than Lot 3.
Lot 5 is planted to the Dijon 777 clone. On the nose there is more of a strawberry, cherry, candy and slight spice aroma. On the palate we noted deeper fruit notes.
Lot 6 is planted to the Pommard clone. On the nose we were struck by the earthiness this wine showed coupled with some hints of coffee bean. On the palate the wine was soft with developing fruit.
Spring and Bud Break – of that we are certain and really looking forward to the next stage of life in the vineyard. Until then, we are continuing our search for the perfect bottle, cork and packaging in which to hold, present and keep our wine. Let us know if you’ve seen anything particularly compelling you think we should consider.
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