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Another Great Harvest in Willamette Valley

Josh Bergström set aside his dreams of becoming a cowboy and a brewmaster in order to make wine.

Posted: Oct 10, 2008 12:11pm ET

By Josh Bergström

Posted by Josh Bergström

Twenty nine years ago, I thought I either wanted to be a cowboy or a pirate when I grew up.

Fourteen years ago, I thought I would become a brewmaster … until I made my first beer.

Twelve years ago, my father and I spent countless hours on Interstate 5, driving from Northern Oregon to Davis, Calif., to take weekend extension courses on viticulture and enology. We had some great moments together talking about the adventure of starting our own family business making wine.

Ten years ago, my wife and I returned from studying and living in Burgundy to join my father and mother in starting a new American Pinot Noir winery which would focus on producing and farming inspired Oregon wines. And this week, as we truly begin the harvest in Oregon, we celebrate our tenth anniversary at Bergström Wines! It is hard to believe that a decade has passed so quickly. And without sounding self-serving, we want to pass on an enormous “thank you” to everyone who has helped make our business so enjoyable. Cheers!

So far this vintage has started and stopped several times, with periodic cool weather and small rain events. I have harvested only ten tons of fruit from young-vine Pinot Noir vineyards. It now looks like we will be enjoying one week to ten days of cool and sunny weather, which will allow Oregon vintners to collectively harvest ripe fruit under prime conditions moving into the middle of the month.

For the most part, the fruit maintains very good integrity and with the cool weather, we are seeing very little botrytis, if any at all. Birds continue to stay at a safe distance, but that won’t last for long. This upcoming weather could mean a great year for northern Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, as acids remain sound, sugars remain shy of 23.5 degrees Brix and flavors are bright and fresh.

Half of me wants to bring most of our fruit in while the weather is sane and there is little worry of rain. But the other half of me wants to continue to wait. Most of the old-vine Pinot Noirs are not ready and could use another week or two. The Riesling won’t be ready until the end of the month and Chardonnay fruit is just starting to move away from aromas of weeds and flavors of Granny Smith Apples, toward more nuanced flavors of citrus, pear and melon.

Where the Willamette Valley was not showing any signs of autumn only three weeks ago, the colors have now begun to erupt across the hillsides and plains. Low-lying morning fog, frosty pumpkins and south-bound Canada geese can only mean two things: Another year has passed way too quickly, and the next few weeks will be extremely busy.

The winery will soon be filled with the sweet smell of fermentation that is difficult to describe to someone if they haven’t smelled it before. That smell intermingles with the new oak cooperage being soaked up and stacked in the barrel cellar, and becomes further complicated by the aromas of the coffee pot that is working overtime. For the first time in many months, we start seeing sweaters and beards and ski hats pop up on the crush pad.

I feel another great harvest coming on.

Adam Lee
Santa Rosa, CA —  October 10, 2008 2:18pm ET
Hey Josh

Thanks for the report. I am going to be up there late tomorrow and checking all of our fruit on Sunday morning. Any concerns about frost at any of your locations?

Adam Lee, Siduri Wines
Josh Bergstrom
Portland, Oregon —  October 10, 2008 4:05pm ET
Hi Adam,There is a frost warning for tomorrow morning across the valley but I am only seeing predicted lows of 35-37 degrees Farenheit right now. That could, of course, always change. I remember in 1999 when frost forced us to pick fruit but that was also in the beginning of November. Drop by if you are in the neighborhood. Happy harvesting!
Mark Buzan
Carmel Valley, CA —  October 11, 2008 4:46am ET
Hello Josh,Up late and ran upon your post. Congratulations!! I remember the '00 Arcus like it was yesterday. It probably still has the power today. I know it does (wish I had some). I've been reading this and not commenting, though I'm glad to see you on a thread like this. You are an extremely talented and thoughtful vintner who has a HUGE fan base... and you deserve it. The '06 Riesling is starting to sing right now too. Will you be in NYC next week? I'll be there....
Josh Bergstrom
Portland, Oregon —  October 11, 2008 1:10pm ET
Mark,Great to hear from you! Yes I will be in New York for the Wine Spectator event. I look forward to seeing you there! It should be a doozy.
Paul-kendall De Lancellotti
newberg,oregon —  October 13, 2008 12:10pm ET
Josh, congratulations on 10 years !It was fun to be there in the early years .Your a great winemaker and not a bad brother in law.Cheer's to the next 10 years !!Paul de Lancellotti
Tim Sinniger
Bend, Oregon —  October 15, 2008 1:51am ET
Hello Josh:Congratulations on your 10 years! We're looking forward to another great vintage of your wines. Carolyn and I will be over for Thanksgiving weekend and hope to see you.All best,Tim & CarolynNorthwest Wine Fan

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