The 2010 harvest is underway in Washington State. Over the coming weeks, I will provide weekly updates on what is picked, where, and when. See previous reports here.
10/6 Update: The 2010 Washington harvest is now a race against the clock. After an unseasonably warm ten-day stretch that quickened the pace of ripening after a cool growing season, sub-30 degree temperatures are forecast in the Yakima Valley in mid-October. This has led to some concerns about how long the growing season will last. However, the warm temperatures over the last ten days have mitigated many of the concerns that numerous varieties throughout large areas of the state would not reach maturity before freezing temperatures arrived.
Jay DeWitt of Dumas Station Winery and Minnick Hills Vineyard says of the recent warm weather, “The post-veraison weather has been unusually kind. The daily temperature range, relative humidity, and sunlight hours have been nearly ideal for ripening. This was true for the past week, and the weather forecast for next ten days looks good. I am now confident that we will get nearly all of the grapes ripe.” This was far from certain even two weeks ago.
Emphasizing just how unusual this growing season has been, DeWitt notes that the Klicker family has been growing strawberries in the Walla Walla Valley since 1918. They have never begun harvest later than they have this year. There are numerous other anomalies throughout the state. Botrytis has been seen on Syrah for the first time since the grape was planted in Washington in the 1980s. Kent Waliser of Sagemoor Vineyards notes that the order which grapes have been picked has been unusual, with White Riesling coming in ahead of Chardonnay for the first time at Sagemoor’s Weinbau Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope.
Winemaker Ben Smith of Cadence Winery agrees that the vintage has been unusual. “It is unlike any vintage I’ve seen since I started making wine in 1992, although most similar to 1999,” Smith says. “This vintage has featured the lowest ripeness levels I’ve ever seen – we’re probably averaging 24.0 Brix – yet flavors are absolutely mature.”
Despite the late schedule, most winemakers agree that they are excited about the flavors coming from the grapes. Discussing the vintage, DeWitt says, “Compared to other vintages, this year we have very small berries and open grape clusters. I think this is why the flavor development is ahead of what we would expect. Smaller berries will create a higher skin-to-pulp ratio and thus more intense color and flavor. The structural components (acid, sugar, and tannins) are remarkably well balanced. It is going to be a great vintage for boutique wines.”
Warmer sites, such as vineyards on Red Mountain, have already brought in many varieties. Seven Hills Winery, which traditionally picks earlier than many, brought in some of its Red Mountain Cabernet on October 4th. This is a good sign for many of the state’s winemakers that their pick dates for Cabernet, a late ripening varietal, cannot be far off. Still, cooler sites have large amounts of fruit hanging.
Winemaker Dave Butner of Kaella Winery visited Conner Lee Vineyard outside of Othello over the weekend and noted that little of the fruit had been picked yet. “It was very weird to see almost ninety-five percent of the fruit still hanging,” Butner says. Still, Butner was excited about the prospects for the 2010 vintage, saying, “I sampled all my rows of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The fruit flavors are fantastic! I think the long season is resulting in spectacular flavor development. Sugars are not up and the acids are still high, but as long as there is no frost I think the 2010 vintage has great promise to produce some fantastic wines.”
Along with the potential arrival of cold weather in some locations, the other main concern at present is the compression of the harvest schedule. Much like last year, multiple grapes will be coming in to wineries at the same time. Vineyard manager Ryan Johnson, who manages multiple sites on Red Mountain, noted that this was the first vintage in his career where he would pick Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne, Nebbiolo, and Petit Verdot in same week.
For Washington’s numerous small wineries, large amounts of grapes coming in over short periods of time presents considerable challenges. Butner explains, “All of the grapes will be coming in a short window of time. Problem for us is we do not have the floor space for our shared three wineries. In a normal vintage, the ferments are staggered and when one batch is done fermenting, the next comes in. This year if everything comes in and is fermenting at the same time, we will not have the room for it all.” Shannon Jones of Hestia Cellars echoes both the excitement about the vintage and the concern about the compression of the schedule, saying, “Things are looking nice, great flavors and good acidity. Now, if we only had more space!”
See information on the Washington State Growing Degree Days here.
Monthly forecast for Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, and Mattawa.
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The information in the table below is aggregated from personal correspondence with growers and winemakers, as well as information posted on Twitter and Facebook. It is not intended to be comprehensive but rather is intended as a snapshot of what is going on around the state. If you wish to send data for your grapes or vineyards (or correct any of the information below), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment here, or leave a comment on the WWR Facebook page.
Pictures courtesy of SYZYGY Wines, Obelisco Estate, Kaella Winery, and Waterbrook respectively.
|Hard Row to Hoe||Orange Muscat||Lonesome Springs Ranch||9/29||Brix = 25.2|
|Sleight of Hand||Chardonnay||French Creek||9/30|
|Brian Carter||Merlot||Olsen Estate||9/30|
|Sleight of Hand||Merlot||Blackrock||10/7||Just over 24 Brix|
|Sleight of Hand||Merlot||Red Mt Vineyard||9/29||26.4 brix, 3.66 pH, and TA around .45.|
|NA||Merlot||Ciel du Cheval||9/30||Almost done harvesting|
|Ciel du Cheval||9/30||Started harvesting|
|Cooper Wine Co||Merlot||Estate||10/1|
|Grand Reve||Syrah||Grand Reve Vineyard||10/2|
|CZ Cellars||Grenache||Red Haven||10/2||27.6 brix, 0.56 acid and 3.33 pH|
|21 Cellars||Sauv Blanc||Artz||10/2|
|Seven Hills||Cabernet||Ciel du Cheval||10/4|
|Obelisco||Cabernet||Estate||TBD||23.5 brix TA 0.67 ph 3.42 10/4|
|Obelisco||Malbec||Estate||TBD||Malbec 22.6 Brix TA:0.66 ph 3.30 10/4|
Walla Walla Valley
|Sleight of Hand||Merlot||Va Piano||10/5||26.0 Brix, 3.80 pH and .33 TA|
|Hard Row to Hoe||Merlot||Riverbend||9/29||24.8 Brix|
|Brian Carter||Tempranillo||Stone Tree||9/30|
|L’Ecole No. 41||Cabernet||Stone Tree||10/5|
|Novelty Hill||Chardonnay||Stillwater Creek||9/30|
|CZ Cellars||Riesling||Bacchus||10/2||23.7 brix, 0.86 acid, 2.91 pH.|
|Gorman Winery||Chardonnay||Conner Lee||10/5|
|L’Ecole No. 41||Chardonnay||Bacchus||10/5|
Horse Heaven Hills
|Robert Karl||Malbec||McKinley Springs||9/29||Excellent balance & flavor|
|Robert Karl||Merlot||Andrews HH Ranch||10/1||Excellent balance & flavor|
|Col Solare||Merlot||Coyote Canyon||10/2|
|Syncline Wine||Syrah||McKinley Springs||10/4||This may be the finest syrah harvested from these guys yet.|
|Hestia||Syrah||Andrews Ranch||10/6||Block 12|
|Robert Karl||Cab Franc||Phinny Hill||10/7|
|Hestia||Syrah||Andrews Ranch||10/8||Tablas Creek clone|
|NH Vines||Tempranillo||Two Coyote||9/30||26 Brix, 3.3 pH|
|DiStefano||Sauvignon Blanc||Roza Hills||10/8,9||Brix:23.5 pH:3.20 TA:0.70 its perfect!|
|NA||Pinot Gris||Upland||10/1||Through 10/4|
|NA||Syrah||Upland||10/4||Also 10/5, 10/6|
|Hard Row to Hoe||Orange Muscat||Lake Chelan||9/28||25.2 Brix|
|Vin du Lac||Gewurztraminer||Michaela’s||9/29||Small clusters|
|Vin du Lac||Sauvignon Blanc||Michaela’s||9/30|
|Hard Row to Hoe||Pinot Noir||Cortelli Vineyard||10/1||24.8 Brix. 1 week behind last year|
|Vin du Lac||Pinot Gris||Lehm||10/2|
|Estate||TBD||Week of 10/4|
Continued good reporting Sean, but the 10 day forecasts for Zillah and Prosser show low of 39 on October 11, everything else in the 40's. The City of Yakima forecast has little to do with grapes in the Yakima Valley, and even there the forecast is to bottom out at 31 degrees, not "sub-30". Please stop with the hyperbole, the Perfect Storm did not happen in 2010.
Chris, my intention here was not to offer hyperbole but rather to state concerns expressed to me by certain growers and winemakers. This is where the statement regarding the concern about cold (sub-30 degree) weather comes from – not from a personal reading of weather maps.
Regarding your reference to the possible ‘perfect storm’ I wrote about in a prior post, I believe if you reread today’s post I stated that the cold weather “has led to some concerns about how long the growing season will last. However, the warm temperatures over the last ten days have mitigated many of the concerns that numerous varieties throughout large areas of the state would not reach maturity before freezing temperatures arrived.”
Thanks for the comment.
Strawberies? Harvesting stawberries in October in Washington state, great for us! Merlotman……:) Sean make some wine! :)
Thanks Sean, Sorry for coming off so cranky. I shouldn't comment before coffee.
I assumed when you linked to a weather site at the end of your article, and labelled it "Yakima Valley", it was meant to support the statement about sub-30 temps in your lede.