It’s June and that usually mean it’s flowering time for the grape vines of the northern Willamette Valley. In a normal year Pinot noir flowers in mid-to late June depending on location and plant material. If Pinot noir wants at least 100 days from peak of flowering to harvest, and perhaps 110 days, that means harvest comes at the end of September into mid-October.
In 2010 and 2011 the grape flowers set to fruit super late, around July 4 and later, meaning we knew we’d have late harvests. And we did. In 2013, flowering was about a week early and that provided plenty of time to harvest mature fruit before the heavy rains we received at the end of last September.
This year we’re had a warm spring until the past week, which allowed bloom to again be a good week early in many locations. A week ago I walked the four vineyards I work with to assess how complete flowering was, and at Armstrong and Crowley Station things were pretty much completely set, at Zenith things were nearly complete, and only at Bjornson vineyard were the grape clusters only about halfway through fruit set.
Overall the crop looks great. Clusters are large but that should help mitigate the brunt of the warm summer all are predicting. Weather for flowering has been ideal at the earlier sites, with all sun and mild conditions, leading to a successful fruit set.
At Bjornson, this past week’s cloudy, showery weather with isolated hail wasn’t ideal, but really we see variable weather at some point during flowering every year and I see no reason for concern. Heavy rain, persistent cold, and more than spotty hail are all things I do worry about, but we haven’t seen that. For the later sites in the valley, mostly at the highest elevations, the weather is back to nearly perfect. So expect happy growers, provided the season continues on the path we’ve traveled to this point.