Category: Harvest

2014 Update – August Freight Train

When last we left, I had predicted a harvest start date of September 23rd.  We had a warm spring, leading to an early start of bloom, which, given the time driven nature of phenolic development, usually leads to an early harvest.  That’s about, oh, a week early.


And, well, then we got summer.   A lot.


The rumbling of an approaching freight train could be heard in the 2nd half of July…our projected harvest crept from a week ahead to 8 days….9 days…10 days…


Then the August Freight train came in- 100 degree days, average temperatures well above normal, color change in the grapes, hot-sweaty pouring events where the ice chilled Gris tasted like nectar.…and the forecast is now 12 days ahead and – given the 90 degree days forecast for the 2nd half of August – rapidly headed for two+ weeks ahead.

Monster Cluster #2





Oh yeah – did I mention that the crop looks to be huge this year?





I think – probably – that every winemaker has a moment of HARVEST PANIC!!!!  Sometimes it’s only a moment before the end of day beer in an otherwise smooth harvest.  Other times it lasts all harvest.  For me, last week I was enjoying a nice camping trip when, on the last morning of the trip, my brain woke up and started putting the calendar together-given the accelerating schedule – and….ahhhhh!!!!!!!  We’ve got a lot to do before harvest – bottle some of the 2013’s, clean the winery, get new tanks, get new barrels, do lots of cluster samples, pick some grapes for sparkling (wait-forget I told you that) and, oh, work on getting a new building (with a small tasting room!!!!) going.


It’s a great way to ruin an otherwise fun camping trip.


So – for those of you who love bottling (really?- love ya!), we’ll be doing that the last week of August and the first week of September.  Contact us if you can help!  If you’re interested in experiencing the joys of harvest – I’d block out the last two weeks of September and the first week of October.  2014 is coming on fast & hot – I think a vintage similar to 2009 is likely.


Of course…just like last year, we could have an ex-typhoon role through during harvest.  Each vintage is unique and we love them all.   The 2014 version is coming on fast.

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!



First day of harvest (f’n earwigs)…

Woo hooo!  Let’s get going on the 2012 harvest.

First Pinot of 2012 hits the destemmer.


After long last, it’s time to get going on the 2012 harvest.  Hope you get out quick though, cause this harvest isn’t going to last long-at least for us.  Our crop level is extremely light – a combination of some rain at set and two very cold years that gave the grapes low resources for this year.  Net result-even thought we just brought in our first fruit, we’re likely to roll though the entire vineyard very quickly.  Another fun dynamic – it’s very, very, very dry.


That pushes the sugars up a bit – but not too much.  Between that and the low crop levels (not entirely unrelated) – we’re moving through the vineyard very fast.  I expect we’ll get most of the Pinot Noir (we moved a little bit today) by the end of the weekend – and all the fruit within a few days.  I think the 2012’s could be a very good vintage-but, perhaps, in very short supply.  Not a lot of 2010 or 2011 out there either – we could have several very popular, but hard to find vintages.


What’s that?  Oh, yes, earwigs.  No, I don’t have picture.  Yes, you can go find a wikipedia entry on your own.  All I can say is this – I’ve been around vineyards for 40+ (not too plus) years and I have never, ever, been bit by an earwig.  Until today.  Apparently, if you grab the press and one of these fine creatures happens to be near the handle….did I mention ouch?



Fighting the last War

There is a saying about how armies tend to fight the last war – that during a peace they perfectly figure out how to avoid the mistakes they made the last time.  Of course, the next war comes along and it’s completely different.  Examples?  Oh, Battleships at Pearl Harbor or, everyone’s favorite, the Maginot Line.

Pinot Gris

Sometimes, when it comes to a harvest, it feels like we’re ready to pick the last one.  2010 & 2011 were very similar – cool, late pick, low sugars, higher acidities.

2012 looks like it’s not going to be like that.  It’s time to remember what a brix over 22 (22.5?) looks like!

In terms of heat and timing, this year is very similar to 2008 & 2002 – both of those vintages produced outstanding vintages.  2012, however is throwing us it’s own twist – it’s dry.  Real dry.  It’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen any measurable rain.  This – along with our warm weather – is putting the vines under a little bit of stress – and pushing the grapes into ripeness a little quicker than it looked like even a few days ago.

We’ve picked a little bit of grapes so far, but I expect that we’ll get harvest fully started by mid-week.  Despite this bit of stress, the vineyard and grapes look fantastic and we think (hope?) that the winery is ready.  I suspect all of the grapes will finish ripening up quickly – then the challenge will be to get everything in as quick as we can!






Pinot Gris dreamin on such a rainy day…

With all due respect to the Mamas & the Papas, it was a better day to be under cover, working on our second (and last) Pinot Gris lot.

It is almost November...

A little picking was done, but the rain showed up just often enough to make it a muddy, wet affair.


At any rate, the second lot of Pinot Gris needed to be pressed and, again, with some volunteer help, the job was done.  My previous enjoyment of our manual press – noted in the post about the first Pinot Gris lot – was pretty much repeated.  No actual injuries occurred this time, thank goodness.  One more round with the press is needed when the Chardonnay comes in-hopefully tomorrow.


The grapes are almost all in and a good thing too, the weather looks to shift to the usual winter rain pattern.  We’ve got until Tuesday-and maybe a few days after that.  Considering it’s nearly November, one can’t complain-we’ve been very, very lucky to have as much dry weather as we have gotten.


The fermentations continue to come along-I’m very excited by the color and flavor development.  Despite the lateness of the harvest, 2011 should offer excellent wines.


Side note:  long standing Naval Academy legend attributes the song California Dreamin to being inspired – if that’s the word – by the dreariness of the Dark Ages after Christmas.  The lead singer of The Mamas & The Papas was a Plebe at the Academy once upon a time, so who knows?  Certainly the lyrics match the feeling of the Yard in the depths of Winter.


How lovely to still be able to enjoy Autumn-if only for a little longer…

Almost time for the big push.

I think I got sunburned today.


On October 27th.  This is unreal.

Another beautiful morning!

After yet another amazing fog & sunrise the day settled into sunshine.  A lot of sunshine.  Still, it is almost November, which means that we may, may have broken 60 degrees today.


The forecasts – certainly not in agreement – suggest that the end to this fortuitous bright and dry period may be coming to an end.  It’s time to get the grapes in.  From what I’ve seen, most of the leaves are rapidly heading towards fall yellow and red – a clear sign that the vines have given their all.  It’s time for the winemaking to take the hand off.


We’ve got a little under half our wine in (but well over half the vineyard picked) – although we expect to change that over the next few days.  If all goes well, everything but one last Pinot block and some Chardonnay will be safely in.  Hopefully everything is picked by…oh, Monday or Tuesday.  Which is good, ’cause it looks like the big rain is comin’ not shortly after…