The 2015 growing season began with a mild winter and a warm spring. Sustained higher than normal temperatures resulted in an early bud break, early bloom, and early fruit set. We are now approaching the point in the growing season when we can start to project grape tonnages and predict fruit quality. The fruit set and the amount of shatter/coulure that occurs is one of the biggest factors influencing the quantity of fruit coming off of a particular block or vineyard. Shatter (or coulure in French) occurs when the flower fertilization fails and the resulting berry never forms. Wind and rain largely affect the fertilization process. The clear skies and relatively low levels of wind during flowering resulted in very low levels of shatter in our Willamette Valley vineyard sites. Due to the lack of color pigments in these newly formed berries, the biggest danger at this point in the growing season is sunburn. Sunburnt fruit will give the resulting wine a burnt or cooked flavor.
We currently source Pinot Noir from the Chehalem Mountains AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. Each of these sub-appellations of the Willamette Valley AVA offer differing soils and microclimates. Over the last few weeks, we visited all of the sites to assess the development of the 2015 crop.
Anna’s Vineyard is our estate vineyard located on Parrot Mountain. The site is planted solely to Pinot Noir. Historically this is our coolest site for Pinot Noir and always the last to ripen and last to be picked.
We are currently experimenting with an extremely early leaf pull in our Block F 667. At 50% bloom all of the leaves were pulled from the replacement cane up to the top of the fruiting zone (just below the first trellising wire). This extremely early leaf pull scheme has been studied at Oregon State University and has shown that the exposure to increased levels of sunlight from berry formation onward acts to acclimate the berries to higher levels of UV radiation and thereby reduces or prevents occurrences of sunburn. Additionally, the fruit has been shown to contain higher levels of color pigments and larger concentrations of skin tannins and other phenolic compounds. Block F has had past issues with under ripe flavors and tannins. The goal of this trial is to increase the quality of the fruit coming from this block.
The rest of the blocks in the vineyard are completely through bloom and the clusters are formed. Cluster size is average, berry size is small, and shatter is minimal.