Vintage Update – June 2022
As the weather warms, our Dundee Hills vineyards are becoming more and more lush. Tender shoots loaded with clusters of grape buds are inching their way toward the top of the trellises. Soon these self-pollinating clusters will bloom, revealing the fruit our winemakers will use to craft Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and so many other varietals of wine.
Weather plays an extra important role this time of year. A warmer spring might lead to an earlier bloom, but it also gives a greater vulnerability to inclement weather during the fruit set which can reduce the yield. This year, our growing season has been cool which means bloom time is still a ways away. We’re likely beyond that worrisome weather and hope to see excellent fruit set as a result.
As our vineyard stewards await bloom, they’re thinning out the non-bearing shoots so the vines only put energy into sustaining the shoots holding clusters. They also continue to amend the soil by cultivating and mowing the cover crops to provide a nitrogen boost to the soil. Don Lange from Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards chuckles as he dispels the adage that vines need to suffer. Instead, he says, “We try to encourage our vines. We don’t want them to suffer because they’re our little pets. Thousands of them.”
At Cramoisi Vineyard, Ryan McKay and Sofia Torres are anchored to biodynamic and organic farming practices to offer their vines as many nutrients as possible. McKay is attempting to recreate the native cover crop that spanned their acreage when it was upland prairie land prior to being transformed into a vineyard. Grasses, yarrow, vetch, Indian paintbrush, lupin and other native plants help restore the ecosystem of life that was originally on the property. A robust composting system adds to the health of the soil. As Torres states, “We are soil farmers. Our soil happens to grow grapes.”
What’s in store for the next few weeks? Lange expects to see rapid growth. “These plants are raring to go. They’re a little behind because of the weather, but as soon as they get the weather they want, they’ll take off.” Once that happens, vineyard stewards will start racing to move the “catch wires” to capture the tender shoots into the vertical trellises. Vineyard management often feels like a children’s game of Red Light Green Light: You wait for the next spurt of growth and then race to take your next step before the grapes move ahead of you.
Our winemakers continue to be excited about this cool Oregon growing season as we look toward the summer months and a fall harvest.
Photos by Mick Hangland-Skill