Nov 9, 2012

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2012 Harvest Quotes: Willamette Valley

Lange Estate Pinot Noir | photo: Lange Estate Winery

It has been an incredible summer and fall here in the Willamette Valley. Temperatures were slightly higher than normal, and the skies remained sunny and free of rain clouds for well over sixty days in a row. We only had about a half an inch of rainfall from July through September – not at all like the last two years.

In 2010, vintners witnessed their grapes being ravaged by birds swooping in and stealing grape upon grape -leaving some vineyards with half of what a usual harvest would yield, and in some cases, even forcing smaller wineries to close their doors permanently. In 2011, we were soaked by the spring rains and cooler temperatures until late July, so harvest arrived about three weeks later than it usually would. For two years in a row, harvest was a nail biting, nerve rattling experience for vintners throughout the Willamette Valley.

Danuta Pfeiffer harvesting the Pfeiffer Vineyard | photo: Pfeiffer Vineyards

Then there’s 2012. Talk among Willamette Valley vintners is that the 2012 harvest is outstanding. With the warmer than average temperatures and super dry summer and fall, 2012 is predicted to be a vintage that will be touted for years to come. I’m excited to taste the wines that will be produced from the harvest that everyone is smiling about. One question I asked Ed King, of King Estate Winery was, “How does the 2012 harvest look in the Willamette Valley? Ed King’s response was just one word: EPIC.

So, what are some of the other Willamette Valley vintners saying about the 2012 harvest?

Craig Camp of Cornerstone Cellars Oregon says, “2012 was excellent. Richer styled Pinot for sure, but Chardonnay should be amazing! Chardonnay is the future of Oregon whites.”

“Whoo-whoo-whoo!  It’s a 3-whoo-hoo year!” – Danuta Pfeiffer, Pfeiffer Vineyards

“Short answer: Fantastic. Long answer: Coming soon.” – Matthew LaVelle, Lavelle Vineyards

Pinot Gris crush at Sweet Cheeks | photo: Sweet Cheeks Winery

Scott Byler of Saginaw Vineyard said, “Wonderful, is our expectation.  Clean, healthy fruit this year.  We’re looking forward to great wines from this harvest.”

Mark Nicholl, Australian winemaker at Sweet Cheeks Winery who also has his own label –William Rose Wines, said, “It’s going to be a cracker!” I think it’s safe to say that the Down Under term “cracker” is similar to the word “awesome” here in the U.S.

Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, son of Oregon’s wine industry pioneer, David Lett, said, “Maybe one way to think about this vintage is that it will allow winemakers to make the wines they want, not the wines that nature forces them to make.”

Wayne Bailey of Youngberg Hill said, “It is a beautiful vintage. I put it somewhere between the 2006 and 2008 vintages. We are going to make some beautiful wines.” 

Jesse Lange of Lange Estate Winery: “Harvest was fantastic overall. We had some heavy Easterly winds at the beginning of October which accelerated our picking schedule a bit and compressed our harvest. It’s been a wild ride, but I’m thrilled with the quality.” 

Harvest at Territorial Vineyards | photo: Territorial Vineyards

Jonathan Scott Oberlander of J. Scott Cellars clearly loved the warmer temperatures, “Yields seem to be on average 50% below normal but quality is very, very good. I have been working in shorts and a t-shirt all harvest. Got to love that.”

Angela Ferry of Abbelone said, “Sugars are right where we want them and we had no disease, bird issues or problems otherwise. It’s a good year for Abbelone…we’re very excited about this vintage!”

Benton-Lane’s Steve Girard said, “2012 looks to be a very good year. It will be a vintage made of the winemaker and not the vineyard as higher sugar levels will make it important to maximize the flavor and richness components. Like everything in life, those who endeavor to invest the effort will get the rewards.”

Harvest at LaVelle Vineyards | photo: LaVelle Vineyards

Alan Mitchell of Territorial Vineyards and Wine Co.: “It is a great vintage, hands down. Fruit chemistry is absolutely sick and of course the fruit is perfectly clean, and we hit our target yields for max quality. And, all of this with a harvest season you could have sleep-walked through.”

To sum up the 2012 harvest, Jerry Murray, winemaker for Van Duzer Vineyards said, “2012 will be a ‘Tale of two vintages’ -the stuff that came in before the rain, the stuff that comes after. I am expecting the vintage to fall somewhere between very good to off the #%^*€£ hook!”

What do I think about the 2012 harvest? It’s simple: I can’t wait to have the finished product in my glass.