The Challenging 2022 Vintage

From John, October 30th, 2022

It started out seeming like a normal early Spring in the Willamette Valley with cold rain turning to warmer rain! Along the way, enough heat units were accumulated for the tiny buds on our carefully pruned vines to begin expanding toward the emergence of the first leaves of Spring (“bud break”).

The first varieties to break bud in our vineyard are the Nebbiolo followed shortly after by the Chardonnay and finally Pinot noir some days later. And it was during the “some days later” that a freakish mid-April snowstorm together with freezing fog descended upon the northern Willamette.  The emerging primary buds on both the Nebbiolo and the Chardonnay were almost completely destroyed and the Pinot noir, only partly emerged, retained a few primary buds.

Underneath the primary buds of grapevines are secondary and tertiary buds. The secondary buds often have a limited number of flowers and can therefore produce a small crop, but the tertiary buds exist simply to save the vine.

At the end of the whole ordeal, at Clos Electrique one clone of Chardonnay (derived from budwood from Corton Charlemagne) produced fruit because it always breaks bud later than other chardonnay clones. A few clones of Pinot noir produced intermittent fruit from both primary and secondary buds.  Up at Abbey Ridge, the Chardonnay was entirely wiped out, but miraculously most of the Pinot noir was spared with a large number of clusters emanating from a combination of primary and secondary buds.

The flowers on secondary shoots pollinate up to 10 days later than the flowers on primary shoots. This resulted in a large range in ripeness amongst the clusters on our vines. In addition, it was a very late vintage due to the cold Spring weather so we were really up against it as we headed into October.

But Lady Luck showed her head and we had the warmest, driest month of October that I can remember! We watched the long range forecast and we waited.  And we waited.  The idea was to let the clusters on the primary shoots get somewhat overripe as we waited for the clusters on the secondary shoots to ripen sufficiently.

The gambit seems to have worked.  We started picking on October 14th and then proceeded to pick every day for the next 10 days until the rain hit at the very end.  The range of ripeness in all of the fruit made for a mélange of flavors and aromatics which we hope will translate into tantalizing wines.

Time will tell!

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