2010 Growing Season and Vintage Notes
by Rollin Soles, Argyle Winemaker
I still reckon we did everything right this year given what Mother Nature had to throw our way. Remember the basic scenario is that she did not give us enough sunlight and heat to ripen our grapes (even for sparkling!). So we really had to accurately estimate our crop, and drop tons of fruit onto the ground, so that what sunlight and heat we did get, went into just a few clusters of berries. Then, insult to injury, she threw rain and migratory birds at us to further challenge and reduce our crop. Rain can bring devastating molds, and split berries. The birds were unreal. Oregonians are still reeling from the onslaught of robins and cedar waxwings. (I for one blasted two cases of target load shells into the vines and flocks!)
Working from the most general facts to the specific, we shifted our emphasis on red wine to Lone Star as it had the best chance to get enough ripeness. Low elevation and very thin soils lend themselves to earlier ripening than higher elevation and deeper soils like that of Knudsen Vineyards.
Therefore, sparkling fruit was derived from Knudsen vineyards. We also purchased some sparkling fruit from outside our own farming to augment downturn in crops and to bridge our production up slowly over time while we wait for Spirithill to come into normal crop loads.
We had to look VERY carefully at our sparkling juices this year and determine if there was anything we needed to do to them before fermenting them. This meant a heck of a lot of extra work and has slowed our yeasting program. At this writing, we have just inoculated our first round of sparkling juices and the cellar smells wonderful of that yeasty, fruit driven aromas! The sparkling wines made from this vintage will be SPECTACULAR.
Moving with Mother Nature, in cool growing seasons we make more sparkling wine and it always turns out to be fantastic.
As I mentioned in earlier missives, Argyle had to wait and wait to capture as much sunlight and heat as possible for ALL our vineyards whether sparkling or still wines. It's impossible to harvest and process all our 800+ tons in one day, even though this would have been the best thing. But, like last year, Argyle is now set up better than any winery in Oregon to harvest and process without compromise a heck of a lot of fruit in one day. We harvested and collapsed more grapes and winemaking per day than ever in Argyle's history this year. "Wait, wait, then spank it!"
For reds, Lone Star vineyards is turning out some really amazingly great wines. Knudsen vineyards looks like it'll have a couple of winners. Stoller vineyard is going to make our Willamette level red a rock star.
We were able to do very long cold soaks for all our reds this year. This was a critically huge advantage to our competitors. We were able to extract all the color and goodness from the Pinot noir berry's skins without over extracting hard seed tannins. Then we were able due to added space to "wait, wait, then spank it" in our red wine pressing. Today we have a few red wine lots left, but this entire week was absolutely crazy with very long hours, and lots of hand wringing over how to get the different red wine lots pressed at their peak of perfection. If you bring it in all at one time, then you're going to have to press it off skins and seeds all at one time!
The summary is that we have an abundance of Prestige level red wines for the tough 2010! This wealth of riches is due to great execution in the vineyard and winery by our teams. We plan to barrel ferment a larger proportion of our sparkling wine lots to further complex them. This is like the "icing" on a great sparkling wine vintage.
All our Oregon buddies are looking tired, so we're not alone. This will be one of those "survivor" growing seasons, that everyone will look back upon with great stories and memories. No PTVD here (post-traumatic vintage disorder).
- Rollin Soles