The Amazing 2021 Vintage

From John, November 22nd, 2023

Every so often a vintage of exceptional quality and potential comes along to capture our attention. 2021 appears to be such a vintage!  I would put it alongside previous exceptional vintages that have stood the test of time, to note, 1993, 1994, 1999 and 2004.

So what is it that makes a given vintage outstanding? It is a coming together of all the factors that individually characterize a good wine: perfect hue and color, intense and multi-layered aromatics, incredible texture, bright acidity that melds with the flavors of the wine and, finally, a long lingering finish that makes you smile. And while many goodwines display some of these characters to more or lesser extent, it is the rare wine that has them all in spades…welcome to 2021.

I have given a lot of thought over the last year as to why this particular vintage should have turned out the way it did, especially given a less than stellar beginning to the this year’s harvest.

In late June of 2021 we experienced a climactic event unprecedented in the Willamette Valley: it was called a Heat Dome, a high pressure atmospheric condition in which the temperatures soared to 115F for 3-4 days. Our dry-farmed vines essentially shut down their metabolism during this catastrophic event and essentially just held on for dear life.

About 4 days before the heat dome, the vineyard had just finished full bloom (when all of the little wind-pollinated grape flowers have completed pollination) and the tiny primordial clusters were at about the size of  bbs. Normally at this time a combination of turgor pressure (hydrostatic pressure from the roots) and lengthening cell walls in the grape skins allows the tiny berries to expand in size. The lengthening cell walls are achieved by a temporary increase in a hormone called gibberellic acid. But this hormone is only elevated for a limited period of time, and when its level drops, the berry size is set.

My hypothesis is that gibberellic acid levels started to increase during the heat dome, however hydrostatic pressure was minimal because the vines were only taking up enough water to stay alive.  Therefore, cell elongation did not occur as it normally should.  When the temperatures returned to normal, the clusters were still at the bbstage. As I cruised through the vineyard, it was evident that, though we had a perfect set, the clusters were exceptionally small.

When our grapes matured this Fall, our yields were approximately 1 ton per acre (around 10-15 hl/hectare) because of these very small berry clusters. This is an extremely small crop (about 1/2 of normal) characterized by a very high ratio of skins to juice. Since the skins possess all of the pigments, tannins and flavor components, all these elements are elevated in the resulting wine.

Voila, the incredible 2021 vintage!

Share This

Recent News & Rants

old vines, old wines & an old winemaker

One of the advantages of being an “old-timer” in the world of enology and viticulture is that our vines have aged along with me. It is a well known phenomenon in the world of wine that old vines tend to produce superior wine. A recent tasting of 18 vintages of Clos Electrique Blanc magnums proved that adage to be true! Overall, the consensus was that 8-14 years of aging seems to be the absolute “sweet spot” for this magnificent vineyard.

There’s More... >
What do winter cold snaps do to the vineyard?

With climate progressively changing, one phenomena that is starting to occur fairly regularly is an occasional bout of intense winter cold weather. In January 2024, temperatures descended to as low as 4F in high altitude vineyards. Read on to learn how grapevines respond to this stress.

There’s More... >
Cheers to a fantastic year ahead!

Bottles of Cameron Winery wine that are currently for sale.

2022 Dundee Hills Chardonnay, 2021 White Oak Pinot noir, 2021 Abbey Ridge Pinot noir, 2021 Clos Electrique Rouge, 2021 Clos Electrique Blanc, 2022 White […]

There’s More... >

... for anything your heart desires: a wine, a retailer, a rant, a newsletter, true love (if you’re not too picky). It’s all one convenient, global search away:

(or close this incredibly helpful search tool).