Thursday, November 4, 2010

2010 Harvest

What an incredibly challenging vintage 2010 has turned out to be. From the beginning, nothing about this vintage has been easy. The year started off promising enough with some abnormally warm temperatures in January, February and March that had the valley thinking early harvest. Many vineyards showed early signs of bud break and harvest was on its way. However early spring turned into a summer no-show, where we had a few days of weather over 95 but the majority of the season was spent in the 80s. Not only were temperatures lower but we were also compounded with more rainfall than normal which lead to the possibilities of mildew and rot in the vineyards. Then to cap off the vintage with fruit ripening so slowly harvest was at least three weeks later than in previous years. We brought in the Woody sauvignon blanc, the first fruit of the harvest, on September 16th, three weeks later than it was brought in for 2009. Everything else started to trickle in after the sauv blanc. With picking going into the last week of October it then became a rush against the freezing temperatures at night.

Here's a quick harvest note from Rick -

Typically, I remember something unique or special about almost every vintage, but yikes, I almost do not know where to begin this year.  I made my first home wine in 1976 and my first commercial wine in 1981 and in those 30 plus years I never seen a vintage like this.  Let’s see, we’ve had unseasonably cool weather, more rain than I can remember and an uneven set and yes, we are several weeks late but……………..this is agriculture people; it’s farming!  I grew up with this.  A vintage such as this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with wine quality and yet, it has everything to do with wine quality.                                                                                                        
 Do I still have your attention?  Good, let me explain.  This year there are going to be incredible grapes grown and wines made; and there will be grapes not fit for harvest and there will be wines dumped down the drain and here’s why.  The best vineyard owners (farmers) will produce extraordinary fruit this year which will subsequently be made into extraordinary wine by the best winemakers.  The best growers did all the right things as the year progressed.  The heavy crop, surely not to ripen, was thinned back to one cluster per shoot no shoulder, laterals were removed and canopy opened allowing needed air movement to prevent rot or mold or mildew.  The best winemakers are doing the same thing in the cellar.  The correct size and shape of tank to ferment in and enough of them, the appropriate method of cap management, when to drop the tank, how much older wood to use this year and the wisdom to realize that less is more!

Did someone say cooler vintage? Great, that means more expressively bright fruit, unbelievably dark, inky color and lower alcohols.  Damn, I thought that’s what we have been trying to do for the last decade.  So let’s do it!  
 -Rick Small                              
Everyone I talk to keeps mentioned how this is going to be a difficult vintage. Not only has the farming aspect of things has been difficult but wineries are facing much lower yields than normal. So far many wineries throughout the Walla Walla Valley are commenting that production will be down about 30%. We are no different (we picked roughly 1 to 1.5 tons per acre in our Estate Vineyard) but so far it looks like the vintage has the potential to be a great one. Sugars are lower than they have been in the recent past but the acidity is still high, which in turn will lead to well balanced wines that should have the ability to age longer. Everyone keeps talking about this moving trend to high alcohol wines and how we should move away from them; well like Rick said, this just might be the perfect vintage for that. 

With the craziness of harvest behind us, we are now focusing on getting ready for Autumn Release Weekend. This year we will be pouring in the Reserve House where we'll be featuring a couple new releases, a couple additional older vintage pours and some current releases. Starting the lineup of wines will be the new releases the 2008 Charbonneau Red, the 2009 Estate Barbera and the 2009 Dry Riesling, a special pour of the 2009 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, the 2006 Columbia Valley Merlot the 2005 Estate Red Reserve, the Non-Vintage Red, and a special magnum pour of the 2006 "Artist Series" Cabernet.

Also coming up in November is 20something - the new vintage at The Fremont Studios in Seattle on November 20th from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. Join Thomas Woodley and enjoy a pour of the 2009 Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Visit for tickets and more information.

Join us for a busy Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend , December 3rd - 5th at the winery. We will be releasing the 2008 "Artist Series" Cabernet. Lisa Snow Lady, the artist for this label, will be on hand to sign prints and bottles over the weekend. Also around will be Chef Paul as he prepares small bites to pair with the wines - marinated lamb, roasted veggies, tapenades and a few other spreads are always winery staff favorites. For copies of the recipes visit our website Rick will be baking bread once again to serve with some of Chef Paul's spreads. Also on hand, Paul Gregutt, author of Washington Wines and Wineries: 2nd Edition, will be around to sign copies on Saturday, December 4th from 12:30 to 2:30 pm.  
See you at the winery!


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