By Raymond Nuclo, Director of Viticulture and Winery Operations
The 2017 Oregon vintage can be summarized in one word: Classic. The past two years gave us early harvests following unusually hot summers, so while 2017 was different it actually was more typical for Oregon. Here’s what a classic Oregon vintage looks like.
In the Willamette Valley bud break occurred during the last days of March and into the beginning of April. After a wetter than average spring, the weather shifted to a dry and warm pattern as June progressed, with bloom taking place from mid- through late June. Conditions were favorable for fruit set in western Oregon, and judicious crop thinning was required to keep yields in check in order to promote quality.
Véraison, a term for initiation of ripening and color change in grapes, started in early to mid-August which was roughly two weeks later than 2016.
Vines in warmer southern Oregon were seven to 10 days ahead of the Willamette Valley. Washington fruit spans the southern Oregon and Willamette Valley timeframes, with early varieties like Syrah and Merlot following a track similar to southern Oregon and later-ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon tracking similar to Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley.
Fears that wildfires would harm the crop mercifully disappeared along with the haze and smoke. Sampling and testing of grapes from our contracted vineyards deemed most at risk showed no ill effect.
Cooler temperatures combined with the later season allowed for the ripening period to move slowly through September and into October. This timing was typical for an Oregon vintage and allowed for enhanced flavor development and acid retention while keeping potential alcohol levels in check.
Harvest in the Willamette Valley began with fruit for sparkling wine and Rosé as well as southern Oregon Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. At the same time Syrah and Merlot began to be harvested in Washington. In the Willamette Valley harvest of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay began to ramp up in the fourth week of September and continue unabated until Oct. 18. Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington as well as some Mourvedré from southern Oregon continued to be harvested on and off until the end of October. At King Estate, harvest wrapped up on Nov. 1.
Weather during harvest was cool, with occasional weather systems moving through the region delivering periodic showers that occasionally interrupted harvest.
Of course the proof of the harvest is in the wine, and initial observations on wine quality are extremely positive. The wines achieved a high level of flavor development and concentration and are exhibiting good balance.