Category Archives: Vineyards

Flowering in the northern Willamette Valley 2014


Grapes about fully set at Armstrong last week

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.


Flowers still needing time to open at Bjornson last week. But huge clusters!

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.

A new season begins

017I was out at Armstrong Vineyard on Ribbon Ridge early this morning to see how budbreak has progressed. Things look great, as you can see to the left.

Bud break is just as it sounds. The woody cane of the plant was one of last years growing shoots. After winter pruning, only one or two canes are left to be bent down and tied to the bottom trellis wire. The little buds on the cane swell in the spring (see the bud on the lower right) and finally burst forth with new growth.

What’s so important about that? These buds contain everything that will grow this year, leaves and fruit but also new buds at the base of each leaf stem that, on any canes we keep next winter during pruning, will burst forth next spring and provide the crop in 2015.

There’s so much in these little buds. Let’s just hope we don’t have any frost in the next few weeks. These new growing shoots are fragile and historically we can’t declare the possibility of frost until around Mother’s Day in May. There are secondary buds that plants have in reserve in case these first buds frost and die, but those secondaries are more about vine survival, so you won’t get much crop this year if anything. And you can imagine there would impact next year as well, because again, next year’s growth is in the buds on this year’s shoots.

Confusing, I know, but that’s why when it’s all said and done, we can have a glass of wine and ponder it all some more. Enjoy.