2019 was a wild ride. This was – by all accounts – a cool vintage. I remember tasting through a number of 2007 (another cool vintage) Oregon wines when I was working at a resort in Montana. They were complex, brooding and I wasn’t sure what I was tasting. I dove in and started embracing the acid driven wines of the Willamette Valley. I came out for a visit during the summer of 2014. What a flirtatious beginning. Not only were the wines beautiful and nuanced, the sense of community was inviting. I wanted so badly to be part of it. I came back in the fall to work the harvest season while Montana waited for the snow. I wanted to learn more and be able to share experiences with our guests. I loved the work. It was hard, laborious and satisfying. When you work during harvest, you aren’t sure when your next day off will come. I spent the two days off that I had going to tasting rooms. I had read that 2011 was a similar vintage to 07. I couldn’t find any in the tasting rooms. They were all selling the more approachable 2012 vintage. I begged them all to sell me their ‘11s. I knew they would be beautiful with time. I still have several. So, the affair began. I went back to Montana and dreamt of one day moving to Oregon to make wine full time. I quit my restaurant job in December 2016 and moved to Oregon with my girlfriend Tess (now wife!) at the end of March. I took the first job I could find at a winery and started at the bottom – eager to soak up all aspects of winemaking.
Chris was out visiting in the summer of ‘17, and so began our discussions about this project. Finally in 2019 we were able to purchase our first fruit. Which brings me back – 2019 was a wild ride. The difficult growing seasons produce the best wines, but not without a lot of bold decision making by the winemaker. We had a nice and slow ripening season and as the grapes were coming up to full ripeness the rains began.
Grapes in Oregon have several enemies. In the cool years it starts with rain. The rain keeps the insects away, which keeps the birds from consuming their food source, so they go for the next available source – vineyards. ‘19 saw a drop in yields, partially from the rain (as the berries swell with water they can become heavy and fall off the vine) but also from bird damage. We were shooting for two tons of Pinot Noir from the vineyard and we got exactly 2,011 lbs of grapes. The rain can also contribute to mold and mildew on the grapes. It can cause some anxiety. The good thing is that the rain keeps the Yellow Jackets away.
We picked on October 6, with sugar low and acid high.
And so – as I tend to ramble – goes the beauty of 2019. I learned a great deal from this vintage. I got what I asked for. A classic cool climate Oregon vintage. So many things have culminated for this opportunity. All of the successes and failures, the friendships, uncertainties, wonder, passion, determination, unnamed forces and hard work.
I taste this whole story in the wine.