Rain fell on the vines in Oregon back in September and October, dampening spirits as the grapes got close to ideal ripening. But then, as the vintage finished and the vintners tasted what they had fermented, they reported surprising results.
I could almost hear them wiping their brows with relief as they talked over the phone or responded to my e-mails with enthusiasm for the wines. Great color and depth of flavor, said Josh Bergström. Everything turned out fine, said Tony Rynders of Domaine Serene.
Adam Lee, who makes wines from Oregon at Siduri, his California winery, seconded the motion, and invited me to stop by and taste from some barrels. I took him up on it, just to see if these guys were whistling in the dark or if they really did catch a break in 2007.
It's risky to extrapolate from one vintner's barrels, but what I tasted showed no moldy character, no light colors, no washed-out flavors, which are the problems you might expect from a rainy vintage. Although some samples showed some green character and others lacked the kind of flesh and evenness from start to finish that makes for good balance, their fresh flavors and relatively low alcohol levels bode well for a vintage of charm and grace.
"I worry that some of these wines have a hole in them, that they're missing something in the middle," Lee admitted as we tasted through the wines. "These are better than 1995, 1996 and 1997. Those were wet years that were a lot more challenging. We were dodging mold and a lot of us missed the mark."
There were some good wines made in those vintages, especially 1996. Those wines proved that rain does not necessarily spell doom for Oregon, although those years also separated the good winemakers from the not-so-good.
Lee is one of the good ones. He has the experience and the winemaking acumen to tailor his methods to the vintage which, as you might expect, produced some unusual aspects in the grapes. It's a vintage of high acidity, for example, because temperatures remained cool through the end of the growing season, even during and after the rains. But a larger-than-usual percentage of the acid content is malic, which means malolactic fermentations will reduce some of the crispness and make for softer, more complex wines.
Alcohol levels, which often run around 14 to 15 percent, are more like 12.5 to 13.5 for Siduri. Although the wines taste light, they don't taste diluted.
Just for ducks, we tasted a couple of 2006s, which Lee expects to release in early 2008. It rained in '06 too, but not as long, and an extended hot spell after the rains dried the grapes and even caused some raisining. Much higher in alcohol, they are richer and have more depth than the '07s, but they also have the benefit of a year in oak barrels.
The past four vintages in Oregon have all been affected by rain, but they're not at all similar. Down the road, comparisons of 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 should show a remarkable range of personality and character in the wines, but at this point I would be hard pressed to predict which vintage may emerge as the best.
That's another way of saying we better not write off 2007 just yet. Let's wait for the wines.
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — December 26, 2007 5:58pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 27, 2007 1:45pm ET
Peter Czyryca — December 27, 2007 3:07pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — December 27, 2007 4:25pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 27, 2007 7:48pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — December 28, 2007 2:18am ET
Adam Lee — Santa Rosa, CA — December 28, 2007 10:07am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — December 28, 2007 11:32am ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 28, 2007 12:41pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 29, 2007 12:10am ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 29, 2007 3:26pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — December 31, 2007 11:04am ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 31, 2007 1:44pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — December 31, 2007 2:14pm ET
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