Harvest Musings

We're well into crush and harvest season here in the Willamette Valley, certainly a fun time to be an Oregonian. It's a time when the vineyards change colors, creating a beautiful mosaic across the landscape while the winemakers toil long and hard in their laboratories of vino.

As I've been out and about, I've been seeing more and more of the 2006 vintage of Pinot Noir out on the streets...well, on the shelves that is. A number of wineries have released their '06 recently, many of them earlier than planned or desired as they have sold out of the 2005 vintage which turned out quite nicely. I tried some of the 2006 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir a few weeks ago and while still young, it has nice potential.

I digress. Back to the here and now, the 2007 vintage that is coming off of the vines. Frankly, I'm feeling like 2007 is going to turn out to be a very difficult year for Oregon Pinot. The weather started not cooperating in early October with rain rain rain, forcing winemakers to make a decision. The first option, pulling the fruit off earlier than desired, would result in an under-ripe grape but would be the safest option to protect the crop. To be successful with this option, the winemaker would need to potentially manipulate the wine by adding sugar, so the fermentation process would yield a high enough alcohol content by time it finished. The other option, with more risk yet more potential reward, pitted vineyard managers in a contest with mother nature--hoping for a few more days of sunshine while risking dangerous fungus growth. My sense in talking to folks in the industry is that many chose the first option, so this vintage will really come down to the skill of the winemaker in dealing with a finicky fruit and lackluster weather.

In other developments, a new wine store has opened here in Corvallis. WineStyles takes a unique spin on wine. Organizing wine by profile rather than vintage or region, they make it very easy for someone who doesn't know a lot about wine to find something they may enjoy. I commented to Drew after we visited that it seemed like they were trying to demystify wine, and when I looked at the website a few minutes ago that is one of their marketing messages nearly verbatim. The store is a franchise, though, and feels like it to me. In Corvallis I am more partial to Wineopolis or Avalon, but WineStyles will certainly develop a niche.

As a closing note, I stopped by Witness Tree Vineyard last week and it is a hidden treasure. Small and off the beaten path near Salem, they produce low volume but high quality Pinots. While you are in the neighborhood you can stop by Bethel Heights and Cristom.