Early Harvest? Not So Fast...

By Steve Lutz

While it is predictable that fall in Oregon is unpredictable, I am hoping for a forecast of cool September weather, which tends to make the most interesting wine. 

Sure, we had early warm weather in April and May, and appear to be headed for an early harvest. It is easy to think so sitting here in Yamhill on Aug. 6 at 93°F, with the temperature in the middle of the vineyard about 2° higher. But that’s why we keep notes. 

Looking back, we were about the same place this time in 2007. We had just started veraison over the weekend. In 2007, on Aug. 10, we were about 10 percent through color change. By Sept. 24, brix were sitting between 23° and 24° throughout the vineyard under beautiful clear skies. At that point, we were simply waiting for flavor development.

Then the showers hit the fan, and it started raining, heavy at times, right through harvest. Fortunately, our steep slope, windy site and well-drained soil served Lenné Estate well. With a little patience, the 2007 wines developed into one of my favorite vintages. The wines began lean and, after two years of bottle age, gained color, texture and beautiful aromatics. 

Unfortunately, the vintage was overlooked by most of the press and many consumers. By the time the early reviews were in, many decided to forgo the vintage and wait for the 2008 wines, which were being hyped as one of the best ever as the 2007 wines were being released. But two years down the road, many of us learned something invaluable about cool Oregon vintages and how they respond in the bottle.

Or did we? The 2011 vintage seems to be following the exact same track. The wines are hard to understand at the moment because they are lean, but they are changing rapidly and, I suspect, will provide a great deal of pleasure in the near future and taste delicious with a couple of years in bottle — I may even delay the release of my 2011 Lenné Estate and bring the 2012 out ahead of time.

So what will 2013 bring? Despite the early start, the weather has been average, temperate; exactly what we like. Ask me about two days before harvest, and I can give you a better answer. Who knows what September will bring? What I can tell you is that while fall in Oregon is unpredictable, the cooler vintages here produce some of the most nuanced, delicious wines provided you have a little patience. But you already knew that. Or did you?

 Steve Lutz is the owner of Lenné Estate outside Yamhill.

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