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Archive for the ‘Ted’s 2010 Harvest Blog’ Category

2010 was the most compressed harvest we’ve had in the Willamette Valley since sometime back in the dim and distant 70’s.  We waited until the last possible minute to pick, waiting for our gorgeous Indian Summer to bring on the final flavor development that makes a great vintage.   When that moment came, there were storm clouds on the horizon.

We could never have pulled off this vintage without a vineyard crew that went way above and beyond the call of duty.  Our crew of twenty-five people worked ten hours a day for five straight days, barely stopping to eat.  They picked 95 tons at Bethel Heights and Justice in just 5 days = 190,000 pounds = 38,000 pounds per day = 1520 pounds per person per day = 95 buckets per person per day.

These are the heroes of the 2010 vintage!

 

 

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Finally got them to  stand still long enough to be introduced!  Top to bottom, wearing their new Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine t-shirts:

Kate Ayres, Mimi Casteel, Jaime Guzman, Alex Bogetti, Pat Dudley, Don Kowitz, Jose Luis Martinez, Ben Casteel, Ted Casteel…   and Marilyn


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Today our vineyard crew started as usual at daybreak, picking a few tons next door at Temperance Hill Vineyard before coming down to Bethel Heights around 10:30. By noon they had finished the Flat Block, the last of our 2010 Pinot noir!   We thought they would have to call it a day by the time they finished picking the Wente Chardonnay and the Pinot blanc around 2:00, but with serious grey clouds piling up to the west, they kept going until 4:00 and brought in all the Pinot gris as well.  Everyone is going the extra mile in this most compressed harvest that anyone can remember.

All the white grapes look beautifully ripe, with nice brown stems and golden colored fruit (small crop pay-off).  But the trouble with white grapes is you can’t just sort and destem and throw them into a fermenter to chill out.  The whites all have to be pressed first, and every press  
load takes hours, and then the press cleanup after each load is incredibly sticky and messy and time-consuming.  Here it is 11:00 at night, and our midnight shift (Mimi and Alex tonight) is still pressing Chardonnay, and eating the last of the delicious lentil-sausage soup that Marilyn made for lunch today.

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Don, New Kate, and Mimi smiling on Pinot

Another long and very satisfying day:  25 tons of gorgeous Pinot noir, including all of the Southeast Block and South Block, harvested under sunny skies.   6:45 pm:  Sun setting, Moon and Jupiter rising, and everyone is still smiling tonight as the work goes on.

Ted, Marilyn and Ben smiling on lunch

What the crush crew had for lunch today:  beef kebobs with chanterelles over risotto, and a side of Caesar salad – Marilyn is spoiling us, but no wonder everyone is still smiling!   We have TWO chanterelle hunters on our crush crew this year, our brand new Kate and our good old Alex.

Jack hanging in there

Jack is home from the kennel, cannon shell-shock averted.  Now that harvest is underway, he can head for the winery at daybreak (cannon-break) and spend the day under the table in the office until Ted turns off the cannons and it’s time for a moonrise walk!

 

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It was a long day yesterday!  28 tons of Pinot noir picked by early afternoon; sorting and destemming went on until long after sunset.  Back at it at daybreak today.  Ted wants to get all the Pinot picked this week, with rain on the horizon for Friday.  The fruit looks lovely and tastes great, with brix coming in around 22 average on all the lots picked yesterday.

Marilyn’s traditional first lunch of the crush:  Mulligatawny Soup!

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Triple Ten Sunday brought the sun back after our first rain event in October.  Forecasts look promising going forward.  While sugars are lagging a bit (20-21 Brix), the pHs are moving into the target range and flavors are developing nicely.  We may start picking at the end of this week, unless the weather gods favor us with a long stretch of dry weather.  Our philosophy here is to wait as long as we can to bring in the vintage.

The guns of October are now echoing around the neighborhood as the birds have arrived in earnest in the Willamette Valley.   Our air cannons never used to bother Jack, but now that he is almost completely deaf they drive him to distraction.  He must feel the vibrations. We finally took him to his favorite kennel, where he has friends who love him almost as much as we do.

While we are waiting we have been sowing cover crop at our Ingram site, spraying some of Mimi’s compost tea and getting the tractors reconfigured for their harvest tasks.   The winery is in full scrub-down mode.  It won’t be long now.

Ted

 

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Pat has been encouraging me to continue my 2010 harvest blog, and since she is downstairs working on her part of the website, I guess giving up part of my Sunday PM to the blog is ok.

Tonight I did my usual walk through the vineyard with Jack (12 years old and mostly deaf, but still the best company there is on a vineyard walk) and felt especially blessed. The leaves are yellowing in the cluster zone on schedule.  Fungal disease is under control. The crop is small and ripening fast.  Flavors are moving from green to blue fruits and are gaining in intensity.  The weather forecasts are very positive for the first half of October.  (The Climate Prediction Center just changed the long lead forecast to reflect this new view).  Jack is healthy and hungry.  We have a potentially great vintage in the making, in spite of a very cool spring and early summer.

The coolest vintages often, in my 30 years of experience, yield our finest wines if they have a strong finish, with cool and dry conditions.  I was interviewed by the press three time in the past couple of weeks, before the weather forecasts took an upturn.  They wanted me to talk about how worried I was supposed to be about the gloomy weather and the prospect of a “very challenging outcome.” (For example, watch this Channel 2 news report from Sept. 21).  But the latest from Bethel Heights is that another outstanding vintage may very well be at hand!

Ted Casteel

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