Category: 2013

Curtain falls on Dion Harvest, Act II

Well, that was a short act.  We had hoped for three days of picking – we got one and a half.  The rain (one of the villains of our metaphor) chased us off both today and yesterday.  The birds (yet another villain) have shown up and are starting to take their toll.

The villains close in on our wine heroes as the scene closes...
The villains close in on our wine heroes as the scene closes…


The good news is that the birds will be slowed over the next four days or so.  The bad news is the reason – a lot of rain and wind headed our way.  It appears that mother nature also got the memo that harvest was early and has sent us some weather more appropriate to late October or November our way.


The forecast calls for 2-4″ of rain – and high winds – over the weekend and into next week.  It’s unlikely we’ll get much-if anything – picked until at least Wednesday.  In 41 years, we’re not sure if we’ve ever had that long of a break in a harvest – or received that much rain in that short of a time.  At least 50% of our fruit is still out – either not quite yet ripe or  unable to be picked yet.


The hatches are battened down and our gear stowed away in preparation for big rain and heavy winds.  The fruit still looks to be in great condition and the vine leaves are still green & full.  They’ve got some strength in them.  It’s not even October yet.  So we’ll wait out the storm, cross our fingers and hope for the best.


We expect Act III to start next week!



End of the first intermission

That’s right, the first intermission.

Looming rain....
Looming rain….


This harvest will, undoubtedly, be remembered for the rain.  Just as we started to get our stride picking, we got stopped for about three days by rain.  We’ve managed to get started again – the weather looks good for a few days – and then more rain.  Intermission #2, for yet another few days.


I was asked yesterday why you can’t pick in the rain.  There are at least three reasons:

1)  The pickers get wet.  It’s pretty much impossible not to get wet from the leaves even if you have rain gear.  Not much fun.

2)  The fruit gets wet.  This can dilute the press and we track our picks by weight – and now you’re weighing rain, not so good.

3)  It gets too muddy for tractors & trucks to move around the vineyard.


That’s picking in the rain.  Rain in general can aid the growth of botrytis.  While that can lead to ‘noble rot’, it doesn’t happen very often in Oregon and it’s only good for certain whites, certainly not Pinot.


Right now, our fruit looks clean and healthy.  We’re crossing our fingers and picking while we can.  It certainly is an interesting harvest so far…

Another day, another fermentor

Day #2 of harvest!


I hope-soon- that we’ll ruefully remember when a single fermentor was a big deal.  We’ll have long rows of barrels and many, many cases of wine and-during harvest- many, many fermentors.


We’re not there yet.  Coming soon, but not this year.  Right now, a fermentor is still a big deal to us.  Especially when you process it by hand (& shovel):

Hi-tech grape delivery device
Hi-tech grape delivery device












We got the rest of our 115 today.  As I noted, it’s been out leadoff hitter for a decade now, and it’s nice to see it show up.  The acidities are quite healthy, but the color and flavor are there.  I’m looking forward to tasting this in blending trials – I like acidity in a wine and this could really push some frontiers for us.  Is it possible the fruit is ready to pick earlier than we are used to?  Or will 2013 just be a wacky harvest?  (like every other harvest)


We think we’ll get some Pinot Gris – and maybe the Chardonnay – in by Friday.  Why does Friday matter?  Well, because, sometime Friday afternoon (let’s hope late), all manner of Rain Doom (!) will befall us.  It looks an awful lot like we’ll not be picking again until Tuesday.  I’m hoping to get the whites in – 1) because as much as I love preserving the acidity for Pinot Noir, I really love it in a white wine & 2) once the fruit is picked, we can cycle our little press all weekend long off that pick.  We’ll have the grapes under cover and the cool weather will keep them in good shape.


The grapes are here!!!!
The grapes are here!!!!















2013 Pre Harvest…errrrr….1st day of Harvest thoughts

Ah yes, the pre-harvest thoughts post.  Where I both pontificate and prognosticate on the upcoming harvest – showing our deep understanding of the vineyard and the weather cycles we are sailing through to a supremely successful harvest.

And then this shows up...
And then this shows up…


So….the big story is that this harvest is early.  Really early.  It doesn’t really match any harvest we’ve seen in the last decade – back to the 90’s for something like this.  An early & warm spring gave us an early bloom – and a warm (but not blazing hot) summer pushed it even further ahead.  And so here we are, nearly a month ahead of when we picked in 2011.


But, nothing is easy for an Oregon harvest and an early onset of fall rain is complicating this one.  As can be seen from the picture, we received our first fruit today – some Pinot Noir from the 115 block that has – for the decade or so it’s been bearing fruit – been the leadoff block for our pick.  This year is no different.  I suspect some day, as it ages, it may gracefully yield it’s place to some of the white blocks (probably Pinot Gris).  On the other hand, I’m used to it being first, so that’s okay for me this year.


So far, the fruit is coming along nicely and riding out the rain as needed.  The sugars have shown up, but the acidities are holding up quite well (almost too well…).  The flavors are rounding out….but given our continued rainy forecast, we’ll likely pick the blocks as soon as they are ready.


So, if I have to predict what this vintage may be like….maybe, 2007?  A warm year (yes, 2007 was warm) that got a rainy harvest.  High acidities, bit lower on color.  Some unsure reviews at first…followed by wide recognition of a great, age worthy (and now very hard to find) vintage.  Yeah, I’m okay with having something like that.  History may not repeat itself-but it does seem to rhyme, and 2007 would be just fine as a comparison.


Or, it could be completely different.  I’ll let you know in 6 (Pinot Gris) to 18 (Reserve Pinots) months…


We’ve got quite a few weeks of harvest to go, rainy-early starts not-withstanding and we’re going to do our best to update you throughout.  We can be wine geeky from time to time…..okay, all the time.  We hope you enjoy it – and the wines soon to come!



2013 Update

Around this time of year, I like to take a quick review of the growing season so far.  It’s a good time to reflect on what we know so far (quite a bit), what we’ll learn soon, and what we hope the harvest might be.  I reviewed 2012 here last year.

July 1

2013 Chardonnay – a bit different than the last post



I discussed the two types of ripeness we tend to think about – physical, i.e. acidity & sugar, driven principally by heat.  The other ripeness is phenological – color & flavor development – driven principally by time from flowering/bloom/set (which can mean slightly different things, but are generally used interchangeably).


We know quite a bit about the 2013 vintage already.  The big news – harvest is coming early this year!  After two late years (2010 & 2011), a ‘normal’ year (2012-although it was very dry at harvest…), it looks like we’re headed back to a September harvest start.


2013 started off quickly with some days in the 70’s in March.  Almost immediately, we were ten days ahead of average.  We had a bit of a cool down in the beginning of April, but heading into May, warm weather returned.  Early on such heat is important – the grape has only begun to unfold its leaves – not much photosynthesis yet.  The vine is dependent instead on rising temperature & pressure from the ground to drive growth.


All of this early heat led to an early start to bloom – and set.  In the 2012 post I noted that set locked in the time element of our ripeness – 100 to 110 days to develop the flavor and color we want.   In a year like 2010, we had the opposite – a late bloom gave us a late October harvest, balancing waiting for sugar vs. the threat of rain and cold.


2013 won’t be like that.

July #2











This early start to spring – and fruit set – will, instead, mean that our 100+ days will occur sometime in the 2nd half of September-not October.  It also means getting the full potential heat of summer.  Net result – generally – mean a lot of heating, driving sugar ripeness quickly.  This is the kind of year in which the balancing act is to wait long enough for color development, but not too long – or you’ll end up with very high sugars – leading to high alcohol and overripe wines.  It could be similar to 2006, 2009, 2004…


Or 2007.   Remember that rainy harvest?  Well, it started with an early spring as well, had decent heat (although not as much as 2006 or 2009) and then ran into early rains and some very difficult harvest decisions.


Such is the joy of growing wine in the Willamette Valley!

The Return of the Spring!

Okay, so it’s not exactly Tolkien-Jacksononian, but, nonetheless, Spring has indeed returned:

April #1











2013 Chardonnay – coming soon(ish) to a bottle near you….


Spring always seems to surprise me.  Seems like it’s cold/rainy/dark/miserable and then- uh oh!  Time to check how budbreak is going!  Time to start tracking heat.  Time to start the estimation game – ‘when will harvest start?’  Current trend-by the way – is early.  But we’ve got a long way to go…


It’s also a time of reflection.  Of amazement (oh stop laughing all you cynics out there who know me) that it’s all going to happen again.  I’ve grown up around grapes my whole life and I have many friends who are in the business, but still-it’s not exactly normal, is it, this business of grape rustling?


So we’re lucky.  Lucky to be involved in such a neat business, lucky that we get to enjoy a journey through terroir every year.  It’s a good time to think on how to make sure that the luck continues onward in the vintages to come.


That’s right.  I’m going to talk about….sustainability!


It’s an okay word….except it’s maybe just a bit overused:


With so much use, it could be confusing-what does sustainability mean?


Well, for us, for starters, we’re members of the LIVE program.  It’s mission:


“LIVE aims to preserve human and natural resources in the wine industry of the Pacific Northwest. We accomplish this through internationally-recognized third-party certification of collaborative science-based winegrowing standards of Integrated Production.”


We’ve been certified as a vineyard since 2009.  It’s a program that has 3rd party certification, but also flexibility for each unique participant.  We like that it’s a commonly agreed upon program that easily allows us to communicate to everyone quickly what our ideas and practices are.

April #2











Okay, so we’ve figured out some day-to-day actions, but what does it really matter?  Is sustainability still just a word?  A belief?  A marketing slogan?


As is often the case for Oregon, a guiding light can be found in-you guessed it-Burgundy.  According to the arbiter of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the Cistercian monks created Clos de Vougeot, the largest walled vineyard in Burgundy, in 1336.  Why?  Well, my first guess is that it was to keep those pesky deer out.  But, more likely, it was because the Cistercians saw that it had a unique Terroir – and wanted to preserve and delineate this unique vinous expression.

April #3

And that’s where sustainability leads me.  It would be a tragedy if here we are, discovering unique new Oregon Terroirs, finding out their places, their vines, their expressions – only to have them lost.  The Burgundians have been preserving – sustaining, if you will – their Terroir for thousands of years.  Here in Oregon we’ve only just begun to discover our Terroir for less than 50 – but it’s never too early to plan for the future.  We need to do what it takes to preserve those discoveries.





It’s my hope that many, many, many years from now, vines will still cover the hillsides of Dion Vineyard.  I don’t know that it will be still called by that name.  I’m fairly certain – barring some awesome sci-fi technology breakthrough – that it won’t be me tasked with watching over those vines.   I merely hope that those future generations still enjoy the unique expression of wine that we are discovering.


That, to me, is sustainability.


In the meantime….bring on the 2013’s!

Start of 2013

Let’s get the 2013 Vintage started shall we?

Well, actually, it’s been going for a while now – more on that in a moment.

Anyways, it’s wintertime in the Vineyard.  It gets cold:

Jan #1









Doesn’t look like much is going on.  Not a leaf in sight.  Yet, some of the most important decisions that will affect the 2013 vintage are made right now.

Yup, it’s the exciting world of pruning.

Jan #2







You can see all the wood cane from the previous year.  Left to itself, a grape vine will push shoots from all of that wood.  Ever see blackberries or ivy gone wild?  Yeah, well, vine grapes would do the same or worse.  That pretty vineyard with ordered, idyllic rows would turn into a wild & crazy hedge/bush/mess.  Besides the aesthetics, it would make picking grapes very difficult-and the vines would try to grow too many grapes.  The quality of these grapes would be low.

So-we prune.  Most of the canes from the previous year are cut away, with a pair of canes left behind.  Those are laid along the lowest wire.  In the spring, shoots will bud forth from these canes – and, with some time & sunlight, give us grapes for the 2013 harvest.

Remember how I said the 2013 vintage had already started?  Tucked into the nodes along the canes are ‘proto’ buds ready to burst forth.  The genetic material for those shoots is already formed and ready to go in the cane – it was created in the previous year.  While much of the story of 2013 is yet to be revealed, the beginning chapters are already written.  2012 was a pretty good year for our vineyard- plenty of sunlight and healthy vines.  I’m pretty optimistic that they’re ready to give us something great for this year.

Jan #3








Oh?  What happens to all that wood that gets pruned away?  As you can see, it gets pulled into the middle of the rows.  Rain & cold will start to break it down and in the spring we’ll run beaters through the rows to finish breaking up the wood.  By summer, those old canes will be back in the ground – fertilizer for future vintages.

The vines will soon be all pruned and ready for the spring.  In the meantime, it’s back into the winery-it’ll soon be time for bottling!