Brooks hauls fruit out of the vineyard and into the Amity winery’s new facility during the record-breaking 2014 harvest. Wineries were inundated with top-notch fruit. ##Photo by Andrea Johnson

Vintage of a Lifetime

This year’s wine harvest likely the best ever

By Karl Klooster

The Oregon Wine Board’s recently released 2014 Oregon Harvest Report is so filled with praiseful phrases, it almost makes the reader giddy with anticipation.

How could it get any better than this? “From bud break through harvest, growers and winemakers throughout the state experienced an almost ideal growing season that delivered a record amount of exceptional, balanced fruit.”

Ideal. Record. Exceptional. Maturing as much as three weeks early. Broke the previous record for heat during the growing season. Nighttime temperatures high enough to continue ripening without heat stress on the vines. Concluding its overview, the Oregon Wine Board gave this summation that wasn’t even able to complain about the rain.

“Harvest began around Sept. 12, roughly two weeks earlier than normal, although some of the warmer sites began during the first week of September.

“Conditions remained mostly dry through September with some rain at the end of the month. However, the rains this year were viewed as more of a nuisance than an actual problem or challenge, and ultimately helped to reduce pH levels and lower the rapidly rising sugar accumulation.

“Growers were able to harvest fruit in almost pristine conditions with no signs of disease and minimal fear of pest or bird effects.”

Quotes from noted winemakers continue the litany of lavish accolades. Following are the words of several, beginning with the Willamette Valley:

“[This year’s harvest] provided an abundance of perfectly ripe Pinot Noir,” said Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars. “The wine exhibits great depth of color, intense and complex aroma and flavor. The textural profile is lush and balanced. Very beautiful … very fun!”

Joe Dobbes of Wine by Joe and Dobbes Family Estate said, “This is one of those rare vintages when you have high quality and high quantity simultaneously. The Pinot Noirs are deeper in color and range from the low 13s to lower 14s in alcohol percent. I believe the consumer will love these wines...”

“The wines are darkly fruited and quite concentrated,” commented Lynn Penner-Ash of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. “We have some wines that have big tannins, but the core of fruit is so sweet that they are balanced with moderate alcohol.”

“Vine fruitfulness and set were extraordinary this year, yielding a very large potential crop,” noted Ted Casteel of Bethel Heights Vineyard. “One thing I can say for sure, 2014 will set a new record for tons harvested. Around the industry there is a common lament ‘there is no room at the inn.’”

Doug Tunnell of Brick House Wine Company added, “Our overall estate crop load was 40 percent larger than 2013. It was as if Mother Nature just heaved grapes out of the bosom of the Earth! Never seen the likes of it in 25 years.”

Tributes were no less effusive in the Columbia Gorge and Eastern Oregon wine regions:

Marlene Woodward of Oak Ridge Vineyards said, “It’s the most abundant harvest we’ve had in the 19 years we’ve been here in the Gorge in both quantity and quality.”

“It was not unusual in the 2014 growing season to see yields 10 to 25 percent higher than normal with great quality intact,” commented Lonnie Wright of The Pines 1852. “I’m sure 2014 will be considered one of the best vintages of the decade!”

 Adrian Bradford of COR Cellars added, “The flavors are phenomenal, as good as I’ve ever tasted. There’s just something really high quality about the grapes this year.”

“I think the vintage’s ripe, flavorful wines will be very enticing for the consumer,” said Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery. “The conditions made it relatively easy to make good wines, with no worries about achieving ripeness, and the lack of frost risk allowed us to keep grapes on the vine as long as we wished.”

And Southern Oregon vintners chimed in with equal excitement:

“The quality of the fruit is excellent,” said Ruth Garvin of Cliff Creek Cellars. “With sugars coming early we chose to wait on some varieties because the flavors weren’t there yet. This proved to be the right decision. The fruit we pulled had great balance and flavors.”

Earl Jones of Abacela Vineyards commented, “The 2014 vintage was hot and dry. Roseburg’s average daily temps were the highest ever. In the absence of heat waves, the vines tolerated almost daily 90 degree temps very well and we actually used less irrigation than in previous cooler years. Coupling this with warmer nights had a profoundly positive physiological effect on our vines. The results; perfectly ripe, flavorful fruit and virtually no disease or predation certainly made 2014 a great vintage.”

“The 2014 growing season has been incredibly beautiful, with perfect temperatures throughout harvest,” added Jolee Wallace of Del Rio Vineyards. “It was a wonderful not to have to pick in the rain or rush to beat the weather. The big reds on the hill resulted in yields above average.”

For some inexplicable reason, Mother Nature was in a really good mood this year. And the marvelous growing season didn’t just apply to grapes. All manner of fruits and berries benefited from her largesse during the 2014 growing season.

Unfortunately, however, Oregon wine fans eager to taste the results will have to wait at least two years before the earliest release Pinot Noirs hit the market. Of course, wines specifically designed for near-term drinking, most prominently Pinot Gris, will become available next spring.

As far as Pinot Noir is concerned, there’s no need to fret. A lot of terrific 2012s are still around and until the reports on 2014 started appearing, that year was being hailed as one of the best, if not the best, vintage ever.

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