After the long 2010 vintage, the weather was supposed to recalibrate, bringing a shorter, warmer, easy growing season. Instead, we got 2011. It quickly became a game of hurry up and wait: Rain was coming, so all preparations were made to bring in fruit. Some people picked early (there was a lot of great rosé from the Willamette Valley in 2011); some held out through the first rains. For those who waited, there came a burst of sunshine. While temperatures dropped, and sugar accumulation halted in the grapes, phenolic ripeness continued its slow growth providing intense color and a depth of flavor for pinot, while the whites retained beautiful acidity balanced with lower potential alcohol.
For all intents and purposes, 2012 was the reset we were looking for in 2011. The days were even and warm through the growing season, with the only real problem being hail that hit a portion of the north Willamette Valley during flowering. No other maladies threatened: rot was at bay and birds stayed away, allowing the fruit to come to the winery at full potential. The warmer weather contributed to balanced ripeness in pinot blanc, riesling, and pinot noir, offering a bit more sugar, flavor and overall phenolic ripeness than we saw in the previous two vintages.
Essentially, 2013 was the year of "Maybe it will, maybe it will, maybe it will...no it won't." With more degree days than 2009, which was the warmest vintage of the past decade, everything was looking good and even. Then came September and the remnants of a Japanese typhoon carried through the Pacific Ocean by the Pineapple Express that dumped 5.5 inches of rain in one weekend. We waited out the event, watched berries split, saw bunch rot move at a frightful pace, and measured a significant loss of sugar accumulation. We waited some more, triaged fruit in the vineyard, watched the sun come out and the rot stop, and delighted in phenolic ripeness that continued to gain in quality. It was all quite terrifying to watch, but we are incredibly pleased with the resulting wines. There is a beautiful floral quality to the pinot noirs with flavors ranging from solid red fruit to just hinting at darker fruit.
2013 was the warmest vintage the Willamette Valley had ever seen, and then it became the wettest vintage, too. 2014 topped the warmth of 2013 and did so without the rain at the end. This is the short and simple: If you are a fan of 2006, 2009, and 2012, 2014 will knock your socks off.
We thought 2014 was the warmest vintage Willamette Valley has ever seen, but 2015 was a close second. It stayed warm and maintained perfect picking conditions well into harvest season. We were able to pick out some Pinot Blanc for a sparkling project in August and then pick well into October where the fruit was able to get nice and ripe in optimal weather conditions.