During the growing season, our winemakers make the rounds all over Oregon and Washington wine country to visit, observe, and manage vineyards. They do this throughout the summer, visiting each and every vineyard that grows grapes for our wines. This update for the second week of August, details their observations of our Washington state vineyard sites.
This week’s trip up to Washington showed that things are still clicking along at a good pace. Temperatures during the trip and for the month of August so far have been hot and above average. This isn’t always to the best benefit to the vines as they can shut down from too much heat, but after the last couple of cool vintages, we’ll take any additional heat units we can get. The good news is that we’re far ahead of where we were last year and only just a bit behind average.
The forecast in Washington was not only hot, but it was also smoky! I had to rub my eyes to see if the forecast I was reading on the iPhone truly said smoke! There are several fires throughout the state that are causing hazy and smoky conditions. In fact, as I was traveling from one vineyard to the next, I came across a harvested field of wheat that had caught fire.
The grapes are certainly in better condition and hopefully we won’t have any issues with the infamous “smoke taint” that has affected so many California vineyards in the past. The level of smoke was minimal and it would be a long shot to see any effects in the fruit.
The vines themselves are coming right along. We’re beginning to see verasion in many of the blocks which means that it’s near go time up in Washington. The growers have been spending their efforts in the final major passes of hand labor before it comes time to make a green pass and drop the clusters that might be lagging behind the rest of them. The finishing hand work before the green thinning is mainly aimed at opening up the canopies to enable just the right amount of sun to hit the fruit on the morning side of the rows, while trying to protect the hotter afternoon side from too much sun. It’s a fine balancing act and the best growers do it well. The goal of the upcoming green thinning is to get a uniform level of ripeness in the blocks and this is one of the best methods to do so. Being able to look at the clusters and cut off the less advanced ones is the strongest visual indicator a vineyard will have on the uniformity, so the green thin is essential to a good crop.
- Ben Howe, Winemaker