Late August is a good time to reflect on the vintage so far and ponder what we can expect as it comes to crunch/crush time.
We started off early with extremely warm temperatures for early season vine growth. The vines grew so rapidly in the months of April and May that by the beginning of June we were ahead of the record-setting early 2015 vintage.
Bloom started early in the Pacific Northwest, with many vineyards initiating flowering at the end of May and early June. By the first weekend in June the weather took a dramatic turn as temperatures cooled significantly, combined with the arrival of some precipitation. This pattern dominated over the course of the next seven weeks so that by the end of July we were now behind the 2015 vintage at most vineyards.
Southern Oregon seems to be the one exception with many sites being ahead of 2015. Here in the third week of August, vineyards throughout Washington and Oregon are for the most part fully colored with a few blocks on the estate still finishing up.
The most popular question for me these days is, “When harvest going to start?” This is always a difficult question to answer and my stock reply is, “It depends on the weather.” We will probably begin processing some fruit in the last week of August, but it will be just a trickle until we get into September.
Pinot Gris from Silverton and the estate will probably start to roll in by Sept. 12-14 at which point the winery will be firing on all cylinders. Again this is highly weather dependent. In a normal year I would expect the grapes to accumulate an additional brix (a measurement of sugar levels) every five days. That would be under conditions we normally would experience later in September with high temperatures in the 70s to mid-80’s. Under the conditions we have been experiencing lately with temperatures in the 90’s and even 100, sugar accumulation can occur much more rapidly. Recently we saw some Pinot Gris blocks in southern Oregon in the 20 brix range and Pinot Noir around 22 brix. In Washington the grapes are behind 2015, particularly the Merlot, and we won’t see fruit at the estate from that region until September, whereas last year it was the first fruit in.
One thing I’ve learned in my 20 years of winemaking is that no two harvests and no two crushes are the same. When you’ve seen one crush, you’ve seen one crush. Here at King Estate, we can’t wait to see what harvest brings and what our winemaking team can do with the outstanding fruit that’s ripening in the vineyard today.