Bud break: March 15th (about 1 month early).
Bloom: Last week of May (3 - 4 weeks early).
Verasion: 1st day of August (3 weeks early).
Potter’s Vineyard Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir – September 7th
Potter’s Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir – September 12th
Celilo Vineyards Chardonnay – September 15th
Konnowac Vineyards – September 17th
Another hot year blesses the Pacific NW vineyards. In 2015 the nice weather started even earlier than in the past 3 years. This led to an early and very healthy bud break and fruit set that resulted in some of the largest and plentiful Pinot noir clusters. All signs pointed to an early harvest but the grape growers truly faced uncharted waters. In June, our vineyard manager suggested that some of the fruit in the valley might even be harvested in August this year. This is something we certainly did not want to see happen. So what could we do to slow the ripening down.
We employed several strategies to reduce the nutrients that were available to the vines. First, we kept the grass tall between the rows – this helped to ensure that the beneficial insects and soil microbes that live in the grass had a place to live and if future rains came during harvest the water would be taken up by the grass and not swell the grape berries. However, by not tilling every other row like we normally do each year the grass competed with the vines and slowed down the development of the vines (at least that was our theory). Second, we also continued to hedge the vines aggressively to reduce the amount of photosynthesis that the leaves do to make nutrients available to the grapes. Some vineyards kept more canopy to shade the grapes but this could have sped up the ripening by increasing photosynthesis. Third, like in 2014 we chose to keep the seconds (the upper clusters that the plant produces but generally will not ripen) on the plant to take up some of the excess nutrients and theoretically slow down the development of the primary clusters. Fourth and probably the biggest change from previous years, we chose to keep a bit more fruit on the vines early so that the overall ripening was slowed down. We dropped clusters later in the season to ensure we had the same richness in the fruit that was harvested, but with this strategy we did end up with about 1 and ½ tons of extra fruit this year. Therefore, we decided to do a separate harvest just for our Rosé. By the end of summer things were progressing very rapidly and we thought we would need to harvest all of the fruit on Labor Day. But fortunately we had some nice cool weather that last week and were able to hang an additional week to fully develop the Pinot noir flavors. But Labor Day was a great day for a small harvest of the fruit for the Rosé.
With all of these strategies things seemed to work out ok for us (we will only really know by the time the 2015 wines are released). With the focus on the vineyard, our grapes maintained great acid levels, had a normal amount of sugar for our classic Bergundian style of Pinot noir, with fully developed flavors that make the wine very aromatic on the nose and smooth on the palate. Overall we were blessed with a rich and bountiful harvest in 2015. Thanks to all who helped with harvest and many thanks to you who purchase the fruits of our labor and keep us going on this path to producing wine that makes us all slow down and enjoy our time together.