Vintage Update – January 2022
Welcome to a new year in the Dundee Hills. Our grape vines are tucked in for the winter, doing the hard and important work of expanding their root structure, gathering the nutrients of the soil and preparing for a year of vigorous growth and fruit production. All of this foundational work will come to fruition this fall when harvest begins on our 2022 vintage.
Every month this year, we’ll take you into the vineyards and behind the scenes to show you what’s happening in the vineyard. As the months pass, you’ll watch as our vines are pruned, as bud break begins, as clusters begin to form, as grapes ripen and shift color in a process called veraison, as harvest begins and this 2022 vintage is finally put into barrels and bottles to age and wait for the perfect moment for all of us to enjoy.
Wine is the end result of the flexibility, tenacity and trained instincts of our winemakers to know when to wait and when to jump. It’s the outcome of our annual dance with mother nature–and each year is its own dance. Join us as we follow the 2022 vintage!
January is one of the coldest months of the year in the Dundee Hills, a sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley. Our vines are dormant, being sustained by the carbohydrates they stored up in their trunks during the 2021 growing season. As the weather warms in March and April, sap will begin to flow and our Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris vines (and so many other varietals!) will awaken. But for now while they sleep, we prune them back and train their canes to ready them for the next season of growth.
Pruning is thankless work, all done by hand and repeated six days a week on vine after vine across dozens of vineyard acres in the cold, wet Oregon months of January and February. Many vineyard acres have close to 1,200 vines each, so a 50-acre vineyard could include up to 60,000 vines.
This process is critical because it strongly influences the quality and quantity of the harvest we’ll see this fall. Over-pruning results in vines that put their energy into leafing and branching out rather than putting energy into clusters. Under-pruning leads to vines with more grape clusters than can be supported. Both negatively impact the health and yield of the grapes.
Don’t forget that grape vines are vines. Meaning, they are prolific growers that want to spread, explore and ramble across as much open space as they can find. But allowing that freedom would give permission for all their energy to go into shoot and leaf growth rather than grape production. And it would make for a tangled, chaotic vineyard that’s absolutely impossible to maintain. Thus our vineyard stewards carefully prune, cane train, and take numerous other measures to tame these vigorous vines towards a productive harvest.
Next month, we’ll take you deeper into the process of pruning vines and training the canes to support the next season of growth. The methods our vineyard stewards take are influenced by elevation, productivity of the vines and timing of bud break.
The next time you pour a glass of Dundee Hills wine, take a moment to consider the journey the grapes took in the vineyard. It started in the coldest winter months while the vines lay dormant. Vineyard stewards pruned and tied down the canes that sustained the grape clusters that were eventually picked, pressed and aged into the wine in your glass. Cultivating grapes is an intentional and physical process at every step. And that makes the end result – the gorgeous wine swirling in your glass – all the sweeter of a victory.
Photography by Mick Hangland-Skill