Each year the hard working grape growers of the Willamette Valley are presented with weather conditions that can range from ideal to challenging–and sometimes both. Though the winemaker tends to the craft of fashioning the grapes into wine, the weather of the growing season significantly influences myriad characteristics of the finished product.
Here is a quick overview of the recent vintages:
2006: Thanks to favorable weather at bloom and an extended growing season, Oregon’s 2006 vintage was characterized by that rare combination of plentiful crop, a warm and dry growing season with little precipitation, and modest disease pressure. The resulting wines were rich and hedonistic.
2007: A challenging Oregon vintage. Bud break and bloom occurred “on time,” followed by a summer of above normal temperatures. A series of rain fronts progressed weekly across Oregon’s vineyards, delaying harvest by two weeks or more. It was possible, but not easy to pick with ripe tannins, layers of complex and subtle flavors, and a solid backbone of acidity. Pinot noir wines have benefited from bottle age and are expected to age very well.
2008: Hailed by many as the “best vintage of the last 20 years.” The weather throughout October was perfect: moderate temperatures during the day and cool nights allowed fruit to ripen slowly and evenly. Extremely well balanced wines were produced. The downside was low yields and small quantities of wine.
2009: Excellent weather during bloom created unusually large clusters with very high berry counts. Vineyards thinned to one cluster per shoot still achieved record yields. Weather during harvest was warm and dry. High yields and good quality fruit helped wineries recover from the small volume of 2008.
2010: Overall, this was the coolest growing season in the past 30 years. There were a few brief bouts of heat into the 90’s in August, but September and October were mostly in the 60’s and 70’s. The saving grace was an extended period of sun in October which allowed the skins to mature their tannins. The Pinot noirs have well-developed flavors, especially given the relative coolness of the growing season. They are very textural in the mouth, unusually so, are capable of clear expressions of site, and will be great food wines. Bird predation was a huge issue near harvest time.
2011: A very cold spring resulted in delayed bud break and the latest bloom in Oregon’s history—early July. The summer was warmer than normal producing a good canopy and lower than normal disease pressure. A cloudy and wet early October increased disease pressure, but then it was sunny into early November. For most Willamette Valley sites, this was the latest harvest on record. Low sugar, solid acidity, and decent flavor development produced surprisingly generous wines.
2012: A cool spring with record moisture in June resulted in a slightly delayed bloom that was interrupted by cool, wet weather. Spring was followed by a beautiful sunny, warm, and dry summer, with the longest dry period in the Willamette Valley’s history, over 100 days. The lovely weather continued into October with harvest occurring in mid-month. The grapes achieved ideal ripeness and wines have lovely ripe tannins, moderate alcohols and nice acidity. This is potentially one of Oregon’s best harvests.
2013: A Tale of Two Harvests—one very early and one normal, with rain in-between. They started as one very early harvest thanks to a very consistent, warm growing season, the warmest on record up to final ripening mid-September. An unanticipated 30-year rain event of 5 inches then appeared the last days of September, interrupting the season, slowing ripening and turning it into two discrete picks, with early Pinot noir ferments already in barrel before remaining grapes were ripe and picked! Color, texture, balance and acidity on the whole were good for the vintage.