As I walked the vineyard the other morn-ing, examining the finishing touches to the pruning and tying that was just recently completed, I was struck with how few opportunities there are in a winegrower’s career to carry out these annual tasks. While there are over 3000 vines to the vineyard I tend to, the task of clearing out last year’s wood and selecting the fruiting cane to tie down happens only once a year. The remainder of the growing season is spent managing the consequences of all those 3000 plus decisions.
What’s remarkable about the profession is that the most impactful tasks; pruning, harvesting, barrel selection, packaging, are only conducted once a year, spent mainly on the wisdom gleaned from years previous. While the aims of pruning include the establishment and maintenance of the vine that will facilitate vineyard management and produce fruit of a desired quality, who’s to say how those ideals will change from year to year, vineyard to vineyard. One thing is for sure, each of those ideals are bound by decisions that haunt the winegrower in an annual pursuit to continually improve.
The artistry to selecting an appropriate fruiting cane to lay down along with selecting the appropriate number of buds based on the vigor of the site, in addition to the foresight involved in selecting a spur in anticipation for next year’s annual visit, makes the task not only intimidating but hopeful; for the mistakes made will present themselves in continuously malignant manners, mirrored by the successes manifested in the continued longevity of the plant. Being much more intrigued with the types of soil wine grapes inhibit, it is the work of the generation next that we can only hope to pave the way for. The legacy or dynasty of these decisions in the vine-yard have yet to be near as mature of those conducting by our colleagues in Europe.
During times when recording breaking heat spikes or devastating wildfires make plenty of decisions for us, I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity to make small impactful choices at each stage of the course of the vine’s life. Those critical points, be it bud initiation, bloom and pollination, fruit fill, and ripening all give opportunity to engage with vine management decisions that are sure to reverberate in years to come.
Equally so are the patient musings of how last year’s harvest has been developing into wine. There was only once when said grapes were picked, destined to become wine. The deliberateness behind those decisions mirror those made in the vineyard. Could that have been earlier, or should that call have been made later? There are only a handful of weeks in the fall when fermentation to the grapes has taken place before being sent to slumber while waiting to be packaged. Was destemming the best course of action or should there have been more whole cluster inclusion? Was that the best use of the selected new barrels or would these grapes have been better suited to this other cooper? Does the wine need to be aged longer before packaging or is the expression at its peak and ready to present to the world?
While making wines in the Willamette Valley it has been my good fortune to wit-ness the taste of each wine be a cascading domino effect of the decisions made on an annual basis. The synergy of said decisions have always rewarded the most interesting, striking, remarkable, noteworthy, world friendly wines that has piqued the interest of talent coming from around the globe.
While the blending table has many more months to be filled with options to scrutinize over, the early mornings of March when anticipation of buds bursting, flowers blooming, and clusters forming, are filled with hope that this year’s choices are finally the right ones.
Wines to try:
2019 Vigneti Vecchio Etna Rosso “Sci-are Vive”
Bursting with the aromas and flavors of wild strawberries, this Etna Rosso is dry and finishes on fine tannins.
2018 Martin Woods Willamette Valley Gamay Noir
There is little else so perfectly suited to spring flavors than the exuberantly fruity profile of Gamay. Wild strawberry, mull-ing spice, lifted floral tones—sweet juicy red fruit with persistent freshness— silky texture, gentle structure
2019 Jean Francois Ganevat ‘Plein Sud’ Trousseau
As a master of the craft and one of the true magicians, Jean-François Ganevat comes from a long line of winegrowers, dating as far back as 1650. Committed to tiny doses of sulfur, the wines are aged for extended periods of time leading to a complexity few dare to allow their wines to achieve.