Rainy weekend

After an exceptionally warm and dry summer, how great to see rain fall this weekend in the Willamette Valley. As I mentioned on my Twitter, this is the Oregon I love, fresh and cool damp air, breezy and so refreshing.

Winemakers usually fear rain near harvest, but this year we need a break from all the hot and dry conditions. The vines need a drink and thinking back to 2013, I like how late August rains that year helped mitigate what was a pretty hot and dry growing season.

I hope something similar happens this year, where grapes that might have ended up too ripe came into the winery in perfect shape. Picking could start this week so we’ll know soon enough.

Harvest is approaching

IMG_5007 Harvest 2015 in the Willamette Valley is almost here. I’ve only been here 15 years but this certainly will be the earliest harvest in that time, likely the earliest since at least 1992. Last year I began picking on September 13, for me the earliest start I’ve seen. This year, I expect to be picking perhaps a full week earlier. That’s crazy!

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Yesterday out at Armstrong vineyard on Ribbon Ridge, usually the first site that I pick, veraison or color change in the grapes is not complete.

IMG_5003Two things strike me when seeing that. One is that there’s natural (and desirable!) berry to berry variation in any cluster. The notion of perfectly even ripening is a myth, and honestly I think complexity and nuance comes from some amount of variability in ripeness grape to grape, cluster to cluster.

The second thing that strikes me is that harvest won’t be here as early as I feared. That’s good news because, with everything happening early this year from bud break to flowering and veraison, an early September harvest still gives the grapes an appropriate length of time on the vine for flavor development. An overly compressed growing season – one this year would have the Pinot Noir harvest begin before the end of August – would be tough. I’m happy that’s not how things are shaping up.

As usual, things will come down to harvest weather. As warm and dry as it’s been, things in September will prove pivotal. In 2013 a warm summer saw an early harvest interrupted by rain that massively defined the vintage. In 2014, a warmer summer saw sunny and dry conditions at harvest, and the wines show it. In 2015, we’ll see, though my money is on “sunny and dry.” Hard to go against that after months and months of the same. But if we get rain, everything could change and perhaps for the good, if it’s well timed and not too much.

Mailing list offer on my 2014 wines is now live!

I just sent out my annual special wine futures offer to my mailing list. This email has the best pricing I offer all year, but to get it you must be on my mailing list.

Not yet on the list? Simply email me here and I’ll add you.

Futures orders must be in by end of day, Monday, September 7, 2015. But don’t delay in case things you want sell out. I don’t make a lot of wine and with a record nine different Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc bottlings this year, amounts of each are pretty limited. Don’t delay!

2014s coming soon – sign up for the email list

I’ve finalized the blends for my 2014 wines and will send out my annual futures offering email next week. Are you on my list? Simply email me here and I’ll add you.

The futures email will offer all nine of my 2014 Vincent wines, seven reds and two whites:

Pinot Noir Armstrong Vineyard
Pinot Noir Crowley Station Vineyard
Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard
Pinot Noir Bjornson

Pinot Noir Ribbon RIdge
Pinot Noir Eola-Amity HIlls
Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

Chardonnay Willamette Valley
Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley

All wines are naturally fermented and bottled without filtration. Most wines are only two or three barrels, so very limited. Sign up for the Vincent email list today to get the first offer on my 2014s.

First look at my 2014s

With my 2013s in short supply – fall releases are long sold out, spring releases available in small amounts – I tasted through my barrels of 2014 Pinot noir on Saturday.

Wow, what a surprise. I’ll be the first to admit I was nervous tasting through the wines. 2014 was a very warm summer with an early harvest. As a wine geek, I tend to find warm years in pretty much any wine region of the world to give at best generous but perhaps overly fruity wines that taste great but aren’t compelling. At worst, wines can lack freshness, taste raisiny and even tired in their youth. Think 2003 in Burgundy, the home of Pinot noir. That’s not at all what I’m looking for in my own wines.

Still, I’m true to vintages. My wines change from year to year, reflecting the story of each growing season be it hot, cold, or somewhere “normal.”

When I put the 2014s into barrel last fall, they were pretty darkly colored and full of ripe fruit, exactly what I’d expect from a warm year. I’ve always learned you can properly judge a red wine until the malolactic fermentation is done in the following spring, and as a wine maker the reasons for that grow more apparent each year.

Before ML, acidity is sharp. The wine softens from the malolactic process. The color and density of the wine can change during the process, even dramatically, as pigmented particles in the wine settle out. ML also causes a temporary pearlescence in the wine, an oily sheen that further complicate color evaluation until things settle out.

Translucent Pinot noir, 2014 Vincent Crowley Station Vineyard

Translucent Pinot noir, 2014 Vincent Crowley Station Vineyard

That’s why I haven’t done a comprehensive barrel tasting of the 2014s until now. Things weren’t quite set, and while the wines will continue to evolve before bottling late this summer, things are set enough at this point to get a pretty good sense of what I have in cask.

So how are my 2014 wines? In a word, surprising. Remarkably fresh with good fruit intensity, of course, but no candied or fruit juice qualities the hotter vintages can give. Colors are much more moderate than I expected, even translucent in many casks. Acidities are bright, thanks to picking at appropriate ripeness. I did add tartaric acid to a few fermenters to allow for lower sulfur additions post fermentation, the pH of a wine directly relating to how effective the sulfur you add will be. But across the board, the acidities in these new wines are terrific, and again surprising.

I work with four vineyards for Pinot noir and each of course gives a different wine. So too each barrel takes a life of its over the winter and spring, going through ML at its own pace, and otherwise settling out and “curing” during barrel aging, or elevage, on its own. The result is a variety of material to select the top barrels from each vineyard for my single vineyard bottlings, then blending the rest by appellation for my Ribbon Ridge and Eola-Amity Hills cuvees. It only happens in some years that there are a few barrels just not good enough for either level of bottling, and I blend them as general Willamette Valley designation and sell to my mailing list and restaurants for super cheap. I don’t release any wines that aren’t good, but that WV level allows me to cull out tasty but otherwise simple wines and sell them for the right price for drinking pretty soon.

All together, I’m changing my tune on the 2014s. No more talk of the hot vintage and “big” wines. What I have in the cellar is much more elegant and lithe than I ever expected. That’s great news for people who appreciate delicate and nuanced Oregon Pinot noir. And even better news given the warmth we’re already seeing in 2015. If I can make wines this coming year to rival the 2014s, I’ll be a happy guy.

Interested in these 2014s? Join the Vincent Wine Company mailing list and you’ll receive a special offer on pre-release pricing in August. Wines are being bottled in September and shipped to mailing list customers in the fall when weather has cooled. Some of my wines never make it to retail shelves, so buying from the list is the best way to go. Plus I offer terrific discounts for mailing list buyers. Sign up today and look forward to the latest offer in August.

Sales trips coming up

As spring moves to summer, it’s time to hit the road to support my distributors in New York and California.

I’ll be in New York City the first week of June working with SolStars, which purchased my previous distributor Ice Bucket Selections. I’ve been selling my wines in New York since 2012 and am excited to visit accounts like Frankly Wines and Astor Wines & Spirits, both terrific supports of Vincent wines. And I’m looking forward to establishing some new relationships now that my wines are available through a larger company with several sales reps.

Then I’ll be in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the middle of July to work with Return to Terroir in both markets. That’s two days in San Francisco and two more days in LA and Orange County. Plus a still secret interview on a national wine podcast that I’ll share more about once that’s done and actually scheduled to be released. Still hard to believe that’s happening. Stay tuned.

If you’re in any of these cities and interested in my wines, let me know and perhaps we could even meet up while I’m in town. I started this wine journey years ago thanks in part to connections I’ve made online, and I’m always happy to meet new wine friends.

Vincent wine dinner at Daily Cafe in the Pearl, Saturday May 9

Please come to a wine dinner with me at the terrific Daily Cafe in the Pearl, Saturday May 9 at 6:30pm.

This event is part of the Daily’s artist dinner series, Cooks & Corks, pairing a local artist and a local winemaker with a lovely meal.

This month’s artist is Anna Kodesch, a painter of animal portraits, oil on canvas.

This month’s winemaker, naturally, is me. I’ll be pouring three wines paired with a spring-inspired menu:

2014 Guild Winemakers Rosé Willamette Valley (this from my project with fellow vintners Anne Hubatch and John Grochau)
2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills
2013 Vincent Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard

Full menu details and reservations available here. The event costs $75 per person. Hope to see you!