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Harvest Report October 26th 2013

The last week has seen a shift in growing conditions in eastern Washington with nighttime temperatures cooling significantly and precipitation falling in a number of areas. The former is particularly significant as one of the hallmarks of the 2013 growing season has been warmer than average nighttime temperatures. This should lessen the sense of urgency that some winemakers have had.

“Ripening should be slowing considerably,” winemaker Chris Peterson of Avennia said. “Most warm site Cabernet is being scheduled for the next week or two. However, now with the cool down that seems to be on the horizon, cooler site Cabernet could be afforded considerable hang time.”

Peterson, for one, is excited about the prospects that these changes bring. “If the pattern holds like it should, we could be in for a classic year,” he said, noting that he was particularly excited about the possibilities for cooler site Cabernet Sauvignon.

At Januik Winery and Novelty Hill, winemaker Mike Januik was also glad to see the temperatures drop. “I look forward to this time of year because we don’t feel like we have to get something picked tomorrow,” he said. “We can wait three or four days and it will probably benefit us.” Januik noted that he has brought in 40% of his fruit so far and expects to be done in about three weeks. “We’re going to be pretty busy here,” he said.

While the past week’s rain has delayed harvest in some cases, few seem particularly concerned. “If it says it’s going to rain, half the time it doesn’t,” Januik said wryly. “When it does, it usually just sprinkles and then a wind picks up. It’s more of a nuisance than anything else.”

* * *

While 2013 has been a warm, early harvest in Washington, some are not seeing the sugar accumulation that might be expected with hot summer temperatures causing vines to shut down.

“The sugar levels this year, at least so far, are very modest for such a warm year,” Chris Peterson of Avennia said. “To get Grenache and Merlot with ripe flavors under 26 brix is unusual in my experience. Most Cabernet samples have been similarly lower.” Peterson noted that, overall, brix levels are generally lower than in 2012. However, he noted that the warmth has had its effects, saying, “The acid levels, however, are quite low.”

In some cases, the effects of the warm temperatures on harvest have been stunning. James Mantone at Syncline Wine picked some of his grapes as much as 30 days ahead of last year’s pace. However, he said that brix levels have generally been lower.

“What was startling early on was the fact that we had brown seeds and the beginning of stem lignification at the lowest brix levels I have ever seen,” Mantone said. “Flavors came on early with incredibly dark colors. This allowed us to pick a number of Syrahs with great acids, low pH's and alcohols in the low to mid 13s.”

However, Mantone noted that the effects of the warm growing season have been vineyard and variety specific. “Some vineyards developed great flavors at lower brix and great natural acidity, especially warm site Syrahs which seem to have undergone veraison in the most uniform and rapid manner I have ever seen,” he said. “Other vineyards/varieties were marked by the most uneven veraison I have witnessed in years.” In terms of the latter, Mantone noted that Grenache has seemed particularly affected.

For Mike Januik at Januik and Novelty Hill, the anomaly this year was picking fruit in August. “This is the first time in 16 or 18 years that I’ve picked anything in August,” he said. While unusual, he said it was not without precedent. “Back in the early nineties, maybe even late eighties, I was always picking something in August, and then it just stopped for years.”

Januik said of the acid levels in 2013, “We mostly will see lower acids in the places that we’ve picked early but now that it seems to have cooled off, the acids that we are seeing in places like the Wahluke Slope, Stillwater Creek, and Champoux Vineyard are right in what I would call the normal range.”

Head winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca of Columbia Crest said of the heat, “The one variety that may have suffered the most would be Sauvignon Blanc as we lost some acid in warm sites, but picked some blocks early to balance the wines - the advantages of growing grapes in many different AVAs.”

* * *

The warm growing conditions in 2013 have led growers and winemakers to make a number of adjustments in the vineyard and winery. Below are a few winemakers’ thoughts on how they have dealt with the warm growing season.

“The year's mantra is lots of attention to canopy management and irrigation,” Juan Muñoz-Oca of Columbia Crest said. “We were prepared for the heat from the start as we had an early bud break and hotter than normal early spring. We paid a lot of attention to canopy architecture trying to protect the grapes from the heat, especially the afternoon side of the vine.”

Chris Peterson of Avennia said, “The key for me in such a warm year is to visit the vineyards as often as possible to catch the ripeness at a perfect point for our style, which I would call ‘barely, but definitively, physiologically ripe.’ This is always tricky, as you can’t be out every day, and usually have to schedule picking a few days ahead of time, and things were moving fast in September.”

James Mantone of Syncline Wine said, “We are doing larger percentages of whole cluster ferments - up to 60% - partly because there has been no disease pressure, but also to help maintain more freshness in the wines.”

Mike Januik of Januik Winery and Novelty Hill said, “In a year where there are smaller berries or where you pick a little earlier to find the balance between sugar and flavors, there’s going to be more of a tendency for wines to be more astringent, so we back off in terms of maceration and pump overs.”

Picture - "Dejuicing a tank of Syrah" courtesy of Long Shadows. Follow the winery on Facebook here and Twitter here


See information on the Washington State Growing Degree Days here.

See monthly forecast for Yakima Valley (Sunnyside), Red Mountain (Benton City), Walla WallaPaterson, 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
Ste Michelle
Chardonnay
Lawrence
9/18

--
Riesling
Sagemoor
9/18

Columbia Crest
Merlot
Four Feathers
9/18
Across from Cold Creek
--
Merlot
Lawrence
9/19

Guardian
Merlot
Stillwater
9/19

Lodmell
Syrah
Estate
9/22

Cairdeas
Viognier
Lawrence
9/22

Avennia
Cab Franc
Sagemoor
9/24

Yakima Valley
Adams Bench
Merlot
Red Willow
9/16

Masquerade
Syrah
Sugarloaf
9/18

Lobo Hills
Merlot
Lonesome Springs Ranch
9/19

Avennia
Merlot
Boushey
9/20

Rasa
Merlot
DuBrul
9/21

Airfield
Merlot
Airfield
9/21

Airfield
Viognier
Airfield
9/23

NHV
Grenache
Sunland
9/23
Second crop
Wind Rose
Dolcetto
Lonesome Springs Ranch
9/23

Va Piano
Syrah
Portteus
9/24

--
Cab Franc
DuBrul
9/25

Red Mountain
Rulo
Syrah
Ranch at the End of the Road
9/18

--
Syrah
Kiona
9/18

SOH
Cab Sauv
Scooteney
9/18

Matthews
Merlot
Hedges
9/18

--
Syrah
Songbird
9/19

Force Majeure
Cab Sauv
Estate
9/23






Avennia
Mourvèdre
Kiona
9/24

College Cellars
Barbera
Ciel du Cheval
9/24

SOH
Cab Sauv
RMV
9/26

Walla Walla
Rotie Cellars
Syrah
SJR
9/18

Dusted Valley
Merlot
Southwind
9/19

--
Merlot
Windrow
9/19

SOH
Syrah
Les Collines
9/20
Block 23
Rasa
Cab Franc
XL
9/21

Rasa
Syrah
Les Collines
9/21
Block 35
SOH
Merlot
Va Piano
9/21

Leonetti
Sangiovese
Loess
9/22
Brunello/Grosso clones
--
Syrah
Loess
9/22

Walla Walla Vintners
Merlot
Estate
9/23

Walla Walla Vintners
Merlot
Seven Hills
9/24
Upper 17
Gramercy
Syrah
Les Collines
9/25
Block 50
Wahluke Slope
Kerloo
Malbec
StoneTree
9/18

--
Syrah
StoneTree
9/18

--
Tempranillo
StoneTree
9/18

--
Grenache
StoneTree
9/18

--
Petite Sirah
StoneTree
9/18

--
Primitivo
StoneTree
9/18

--
Cab Sauv
StoneTree
9/18
First Cabernet
--
Zinfandel
Clifton
9/19

Angel Vine
Primitivo
StoneTree
9/21

Angel Vine
Petite Sirah
StoneTree
9/21

Fielding Hills
Malbec
RiverBend
9/23

Efeste
Mourvèdre
StoneTree
9/25

Horse Heaven Hills
Tertulia
Merlot
Phinny Hill
9/19

Syncline
Grenache
Alder Ridge
9/19

Rotie
Grenache
Alder Ridge1
9/21

McKinley Springs
Syrah
McKinley Springs
9/23

WT Vintners
Syrah
Destiny Ridge
9/23

--
Primitivo
Coyote Canyon
9/24


Syrah
Coyote Canyon
9/24

Columbia Gorge
Syncline
Pinot Noir
Celilo
9/19

Syncline
Gruner
Underwood
9/19

Snipes
--
Sauv Blanc
Upland
8/22

--
Chardonnay
Upland
9/6

--
Tempranillo
Upland
9/9

--
Morio Muscat
Upland
9/11

--
Muscat Canelli
Upland
9/11

--
Pinot Noir
Upland
9/13
Sparkling
--
Syrah
Upland
9/14

--
Viognier
Upland
9/16

--
Pinot Gris
Upland
9/19

--
Cab Sauv
Upland
9/20

--
Merlot
Upland
9/20

--
Muller Thurgau
Upland
9/20
Sparkling
Avennia
Grenache
Upland
9/24



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1 Responses to Cooler temperatures come to Washington's harvest

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. This is going to be the year of the winemaker, rather than the weather. The vintage is giving us low acid, sorta high sugar grapes that would normally turn into flabby, high alcohol, flat wines if we were in California. Maybe that's a good year in California? (Oh burn!) But seriously, this year is no less challenging than 2010 or 2011, it's just on the other end of the spectrum. I've heard comparisons to the 2003 vintage, but only time will tell on that one. I've had some seriously good 2003 wines (I'm looking at you Andrew Will) but I've also had some really bad 2003 wines who shall remain nameless.

    Sean, make a note to revisit the 2013 vintage in 2017. This is going to be an INTERESTING year.

     

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