Posted by Josh Bergström
Tomorrow we will be pressing out our final Pinot Noir fermentations, and the winemaking season will slow down—for now. Barrels that were filled with wine earlier on in the harvest period are now safely tucked away in the cellar. Some barrels have started a precocious malolactic fermentation, but the cold winter weather will soon put a halt to that, and we'll spend the next several months tasting, testing and surveying to make sure that the wines are over-wintering safely.
The harvest finished well, and I think it is safe to say that the raw materials we were given and the new raw wines have great potential. I still think that this vintage will ultimately be compared to either 1999 or 2002 as far as weather conditions and wine quality are concerned. But the wines will of course have their own unique attributes that I think will definitely please the palate. The Pinot Noirs are palate-staining wines with enticing aromas of fresh crushed berries and spice. Some have a definite soil-driven character at this early stage. The structure (acid, tannin and body) of these wines is apparent but very much in balance.
The Chardonnay and Riesling fermentations are slowly bubbling away. I usually put these barrels and tanks outside in the fall, as the cool daytime temperatures and cold nighttime temperatures act as the perfect barrel cellar—until the fear of a major freeze, at which point they come inside. Most of them have been in barrel for over two weeks and they are fermenting well, with no off odors and no bad behavior. They have only dropped 5 or 6 degrees Brix, which is the nice cool and slow pace that I am looking for. The aromas and flavors at this point are stunning!
As the winemaking season slows down at the end of harvest, the sales season inevitably starts back up again. And for Oregon wineries, this time of year is a whirlwind, as most of us open our doors for open house events surrounding the Thanksgiving weekend. Thousands of Pinot-starved fanatics and connoisseurs alike converge on the Willamette Valley to taste the new vintage, see old friends and buy cases to bring home for holiday feasts, or to stow away in their cellars for extended aging.
It seems that it's been a long harvest. The crew is exhausted but content. Many good meals and fine bottles of wine were shared among us. For nearly seven straight weeks, we’ve have worked seven days a week and nearly 15 hours a day.
As is always the case, this harvest was marked with highs and lows, notably the Indian summer conditions that saved the vintage as the high point, and the death of David Lett, who was unable to enjoy one last vintage with us, as the low point. This vintage will be highly acclaimed and probably remembered for a few years before the next great vintage comes to pass, but David Lett will be remembered always by all of us who make wine in the Willamette Valley. Without his courage, and the courage of others like him, to forge a path for Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir producers in a place that was once deemed “inhospitable” for the grapevine, I wouldn’t be here today telling you about another day in the life.
Thanks to all of you who tuned in this year to read this blog and the many others that were posted on this site. If any of you make it to Oregon this year, or happen to bump into me on the road as I am out and about selling my wares, don’t be a stranger; come by and say hi.
Best regards and goodbye for now.
Tim Sinniger — Bend, Oregon — January 2, 2009 1:34am ET
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