Tag Archives: Willamette Valley

Hang, Baby Hang

The weather here in Oregon is spectacular right now and all forecasts are for more of the same i.e., unseasonably warm and dry weather for the next 10 days (one long range forecaster interviewed recently, predicts an unseasonably dry November even). If that’s the case, I’m going to “hang, baby hang” to paraphrase one of the more comical slogans of the current political theatre.

As of this writing, I have approximately 3-1/2 acres of Syrah on the vine as well as ¾ acres of Riesling. Exciting as this extended period of warm, dry weather may be – and believe me, I am excited, several other mitigating factors are causing me sleepless nights and great anxiety. You see, this extended hang time is really “Risky Business” to a grape grower. The longer it hangs, the less crop I get, of course. Theoretically, this risk should be compensated for by a corresponding increase in grape, and therefore wine, quality. But that’s only true if I actually get to harvest something – therein lies the rub.

The weather is beautiful – visibility is extraordinary (at the top of the hill above us we could see 5 mountains the other day – Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson – incredible, considering Mt. Rainer is something like 300 miles North of here). But, I digress – this wonderful clear, warm weather is also great if you’re a bird, or a yellow jacket!

Most of the syrah is looking pretty darn good. The clusters are gorgeous, the berries big and full but they are not quite ripe. Over the past week, the fruit has changed dramatically in taste. Rather than green and vegetative flavors, the delicious fruit has become much more prominent. The seeds are about 80% brown now, a sure sign of approaching physiological maturity.

The Riesling looks pretty good  too!

This Riesling fruit is much more ripe than the Syrah – upper 20’s sugar wise but still with acidity that is quite high. Since we have a cooperative weather pattern, I’m thinking we’ll let her hang some more and do a late harvest.

Now for the downside of hang time. First, there are the birds, they’re hungry too and the blackberries are all dried up!

In the photo above, you can see a hole pecked in a ripe grape. Once a hole has been pecked thru the skins, the yellow jackets devour the flesh inside.

And those yellows love ripe grapes, they can get downright mean if you mess with them (and I happen to be alergic to the little monsters). I wonder if they had yellowjackets on The Arc – that was a huge mistake!

Fortunately, the damage from the yellowjackets is relatively insignificant.

At least they don’t seem to pick it clean like the birds do. A sight like this is enough to make an environmentalist like me cringe! OK, OK – take it easy, don’t call Audubon on me.

While I’ve got my back turned, sometimes Bob helps himself to the bottom of some clusters. My vineyard manager Evan asked me if I had coyotes – I explained that Bob likes to think he’s a wild dog( except for when he’s riding shotgun in the Gator).

I guess you could say that we all must share – with the birds, the bees (yellowjackets anyway) and the wild animals (that would be Bob). There’s only one problem with this seemingly symbiotic relationship – I hate to share!

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Another Day in Paradise

Dawn starts overcast but soon clears as another beautiful fall day begins in the Northern Willamette Valley – it’s time, again, to harvest more fruit from our estate vineyard on Parrett Mountain. Today, Saturday October 11, we are picking Chardonnay and a small “Mother Block” of Pinot Noir.

The Chardonnay, Dijon 76 clone, looks beautiful in the morning light.

Evan and Paco load almost perfect fruit into the bins. Very little sorting will be required for this fruit.

Next, we turn our attention to the “Mother Block”. This is a small block of Dijon 115 Pinot Noir originally planted in 1996. These vines are own rooted and non-irrigated.

An absolutely perfect day, warm and sunny.

We all smile as we see how gorgeous the Pinot looks – not much sorting needed on this fruit either!

We’ve still got lot’s more fruit to harvest, let’s hope the weather continues to cooperate. More to follow.

Pinot Noir Harvest – October 1, 2008

The crews arrive around 11AM and commence the pick.

Pinot Noir grapes ar hand picked.

Pinot Noir grapes are hand picked.

The buckets are staged at the ends of the rows.

Picked fruit

Picked fruit

The fruit is then loaded into harvest bins for transport to the winery.

Loading the harvest bins

Loading the harvest bins

The harvest bins are ready for loading up.

Harvest bins, fully loaded

Beautiful, ripe Pinot Noir, Pommard clone

And finally, off to the winery they go.

Staged bins

Staged bins

All in all, Tucker (Director of Homeland Security) thinks the day went rather well!

Tucker, the dog

Tucker, the dog