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2011 Harvest Report - October 6th Edition

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The 2011 harvest is underway in Washington State! Over the coming weeks, I will provide periodic updates on what is picked, where, and when as well as thoughts on the growing season from the state’s growers and winemakers.

10/6 Update: The major story this week has been the cool, wet weather that - as forecast - moved into eastern Washington. One winemaker summed up the thoughts of many saying, “The last words you want to hear during a vintage like this one – ‘All loads canceled due to rain.’”

Indeed rain spread across many areas of the state Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s rain was less than a tenth of an inch in most areas, not enough to cause significant concern but enough to affect picking decisions. Some vineyards picked fruit on Monday in advance of the rain. Many canceled picks on Tuesday and Wednesday with rain forecast.

As of yet, no one I have spoken with has expressed a great deal of concern about the rain, although all have emphasized the need for more warm weather. Sunshine was forecast to resume this weekend, although the near term temperatures look to remain on the cool side. Of note, on September 30th, Washington State University Viticulture & Enology Research & Extension issued a botrytis and bunch rot alert.

* * *

While some have already begun harvest, many are still waiting for their first fruit. Grower and winemaker Mike Wade of Fielding Hills Winery says, “Wow, this year has been a challenging year…We still have not picked a grape. The first to pick will be Merlot, and it was at 22.3% sugar on Monday.” This is the latest harvest in the eleven years he has been farming this Wahluke Slope vineyard.

“This year is a waiting game,” James Mantone of Syncline Wine Cellars agrees. “Flavors are coming on. Colors are deep. Acids are a little less than last year. Brix are slow, but well within our historical averages.”

Winemaker Marcus Notaro of Col Solare just picked his first fruit yesterday, October 5th. “Latest start ever for me,” he says. Notaro notes that the grapes appear to have greater flavor intensity compared to 2010. He attributes this to the lower crop level and work in the vineyards. Notaro adds a cautionary note saying, “Even after a near perfect September, I think we still need some good weather to finish off the Cabernet and Cab Franc.”

Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet of Pepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars also notes that Brix are slow but says, “We do have some very good flavor development at low brix. Our crops so far are light. I also found in general that the berries size are bigger than last year but are about average.”

Jamie Brown, winemaker at Waters Winery, says he has seen signs of the challenging growing season on the fruit he has received so far. “There signs of over work in the vineyard,” Brown says. “Much of it couldn't be helped due to proactive powdery mildew suppression, but I'm definitely seeing the differences in elite farming practices this year.”

Many have noted that the acids are not as high as 2010, another cool year. However, Joshua Maloney, Director of Winemaking at Milbrandt Vineyards says, “The pH’s have us all scratching our heads. I have been seeing pH’s much higher than what I am accustomed to seeing.” Maloney says that testing at the winery indicates Malic Acid levels are high this year. A shift is expected as the wines go through malolactic fermentation.

Maloney agrees with Wade that it has been a challenging and unusual year. “All vintages have an element of the unusual, but this one is by far the unusualist!” he says. Maloney says the waiting game is difficult but adds, “I say this every year because it always seems to come down to this – I would much rather endure four to six weeks of pain by having a difficult and condensed harvest than have three-plus years of regret by rushing these decisions.”

See information on the Washington State Growing Degree Days here.

Monthly forecast for Yakima, Walla Walla, and Mattawa.

* * *

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 wawinereport@gmail.com, leave a comment here, or leave a comment on the WWR Facebook page.

Winery

Grape

Vineyard

Date

Notes

Columbia Valley

Long Shadows

Merlot

Dionysus

9/29


Rasa

Merlot

Bacchus

9/30


Gard

Viognier

Lawrence

10/3

First fruit of 2011

Gard

Pinot Gris

Lawrence

10/3

First fruit of 2011

Novelty Hill

Chardonnay

Stillwater Creek

10/3


Yakima Valley

Tildio

Sauvignon Blanc

Lonesome Springs

9/29


Maryhill

Pinot Gris

Tudor Hills

9/30


Owen Roe

Merlot

Red Willow

10/1


--

Riesling

Outlook

10/4


Red Mountain

Sonoris

Merlot

Red Heaven

9/23


Sonoris

Merlot

Red Mountain Vyd

9/28


Force Majeure

Merlot, ENTAV 181

Force Majeure

9/29


Force Majeure

Viognier

Force Majeure

9/29


Betz Family Winery

Syrah

Kiona

9/30


Elsom

Merlot

Artz

10/1


Kaella

Sangiovese

Ciel du Cheval

10/2

Brunello clone

--

Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot

Ciel du Cheval

10/3

Racing to beat the rain

Force Majeure

Syrah

Force Majeure

10/3


Ross Andrews

Ciel du Cheval

Syrah

10/3


Ross Andrews

Merlot

Ciel du Cheval

10/3


Ross Andrews

Merlot

Klipsun

10/3


Betz Family Winery

Merlot

Klipsun

10/4


Col Solare

Merlot

Estate

10/5


Col Solare

Malbec

Estate

10/5


Syncline

Syrah

Ciel du Cheval

10/8


Syncline

Grenache

Ciel du Cheval

10/8


Walla Walla Valley

Woodward Canyon

Sauvignon Blanc

Estate

9/14

First fruit of harvest

Bunchgrass

Semillon

Birch Creek

9/29


Rasa

Syrah

Seven Hills

10/1


Pepper Bridge

Merlot

Seven Hills

10/3


Amavi Cellars

Semillon

Goff

10/3

First fruit of 2011

Amavi Cellars

Semillon

Seven Hills

10/4


Rasa

Syrah

Les Collines

10/4

Block 35

Wahluke Slope

Desert Wind

Semillon

Desert wind

10/1


Castillo de Feliciana

Tempranillo

Rosebud Ranch

10/3


Angel Vine

Primitivo

StoneTree

10/9


Rattlesnake Hills

Cedar River

Merlot

Portteus

9/30


Cedar River

Viognier

Portteus

9/30


Horse Heaven Hills

Syncline

Syrah

McKinley

10/2


Syncline

Roussanne

McKinley

10/2


Syncline

Cinsault

McKinley

10/2

For rose.

Robert Karl

Merlot

Alder Ridge

10/3


Betz Family Winery

Merlot

Alder Ridge

10/4


Domanico

Merlot

Alder Ridge

10/7


Snipes Mountain

Rasa

Syrah

Upland

10/1


Castillo de Feliciana

Pinot Gris

Upland

10/3


Puget Sound

Whidbey Island

Madeline Sylvaner

Estate

10/8


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