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.
Two 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.