A vintage only the parents could love?

We had a little dog that I loved dearly named Jackie. He was a little terrier-sheepdog mix and was as smart as they come. In his later years when he went deaf all I had to do is motion with my hands and he understood to come, to stop or to move away. He protected and loved us as any good sheepdog would do. We got Jackie at a terrier rescue shelter when he was about a year old.  Who knows what his first year of life was like but he had a bark that was much bigger than his bite. He was a little sweetie underneath but fearful, especially of men, and the fear often came out as aggression.
jackie

Needless to say he was hard to understand for most people who had just meet him. He would snarl his teeth, growl and scare the hell out of anyone who wasn’t a dog person.  We had to warn people as they came into the house, “don’t make eye contact with him.” That would be about all it would take to set him off and it was more than disconcerting to us who knew how smart, lovable and complex this little dog was. But our close friends, those who spent time with us, eventually all warmed up to Jackie and felt bad when we finally had to put him down last New Year’s Eve.

It took some time to appreciate Jackie but was worth it once you did and that reminds me of the 2011 Pinot Noir vintage in Oregon. It was a remarkable vintage, perhaps Oregon’s coldest ever, a vintage saved by a week of 90 degree weather in September and the fact that the rain stayed away until November. The wines have some sharp edges now and growl at you a bit and most consumers don’t understand them at the moment.

But we can look ahead. We know how cool vintages evolve and if you have forgotten get your hands on a Pinot from the 2007 vintage in the Willamette Valley. If you remember 2007 was warmer than the 2011 vintage but cooled down quickly when rain showers arrived just before harvest and persisted through most of October. The wines from 2007 started out lean just like the 2011 wines. In fact I don’t remember two vintages that were so alike upon release.2011LEPinot

Each night I sit with a bottle of wine from the 2011 vintage I get more enamored. I suspect by late spring the wines will be good and delicious by this time next year. The 2011 wines are changing rapidly like the 2007 vintage because of their relatively low tannin levels. The high acidity and low ph’s should keep the fruit intact for years to come and produce complex, delicious wines. Just like Jackie, the wines are making their way into my heart and for any Pinot Noir lover, should make their way into your cellar.

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Wheeew……just barely!!

We had record breaking rain at the end of September! But don’t panic, the season was early and much of the fruit was in before the deluge this past weekend.  At Lenné we were fortunate to have ripe, developed fruit that we harvested Thursday and Friday before the rain. We were also darn lucky to have enough pickers to harvest. The shortage of labor for picking is an ever increasing problem and one we will have to deal with. Most producers scrambled to pick before the weekend and I am sure some had to let fruit hang.haulinggrapes

And what about the grapes that weren’t picked? That is a good question and depends on the fragility of the fruit. If the fruit is intact and we get primarily dry weather for the next 10 days those wines will be good. It all depends on how much absorption and disease pressure exist in any given site. Part of our vineyard could have weathered the rain and been okay assuming we had 5 or 6 days of dry weather.mud

But I am glad we got it off. The flavors were good and I am optimistic about the vintage. The tricky part was getting the fruit out of the vineyard. In a wet year we fight slippery conditions on a steep hill which is a little scary. Try driving a tractor in that and you will know what I mean when I say………….wheeew! Somehow the wine gods smiled on us and we ripened our fruit and got it out of the vineyard, just barely.

 

 

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It wouldn’t be harvest unless I was on a tractor after dark.

Every harvest I find myself driving in the dark staging bins for an early morning pic. Sometimes its hard to see out there even though I have lights. With 4 bins stacked on the front forks it is easy to make a mistake, like the year I ran over the propane tank that feeds the bird cannon. Thank god it didn’t explode, just let out a loud hiss and I jumped out of the tractor and ran like hell.harvesting kill hill

Last night there was a full harvest moon and a perfectly clear sky. The air was warm and I stopped for a minute at the top of the vineyard and just absorbed it all; it was stunningly beautiful. It was just one of those moments that just make you feel glad to be alive. I am sure you have had that feeling in nature.

Later I thought what an interesting harvest.  Everyone harvest is different and this is an early harvest by Lenné standards, only two being around this same time. A couple of weeks ago we got rain followed by a day of record heat which could have been a problem but ensuing cooler weather helped keep the vines in check.

Thank you Dyonisus . The cool weather has kept sugars in check and I can’t see the wines clearly this harvest will produce, but I think they will be good, forward and enjoyable early. The proof will be in the pudding, or more aptly the barrel and soon.

I will keep you posted…

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Screw caps, can’t we do better?

When I get a corked bottle of wine I think corks are important and when a customer gets the same they become even more so. The cork industry has made significant progress in the last 10 years to eliminate tainted corks before reach the bottle.  Is it good enough?

Not yet though on all the Lenné wines I have samples over the last 7 years(estimated to be around 1500) I have come across less than 10 corked wines. That doesn’t mean the presence  trichloranisole, or TCA  wasn’t there, it could mean it was in low enough levels that I didn’t pick it up. So I too debate using the Stelvin(screw cap) closure in the future.stelvin_1

The fact is I hate the way the screw cap feels and looks. There is something sensual about a cork and we taste wines with our senses not just our palates. When I hear that “pop” as I pull a cork from an anticipated bottle of wine I start to salivate. I suppose it is classical conditioning, just like Pavlov’s dog.

I am conditioned to experience wine with my senses. Recently I took a trip to Victoria, B.C. and brought two perfectly shaped glasses I purchased for the trip. They were clear plastic glasses as I was tired of breaking the small Riedel glasses I typically bring. The first night I poured a glass of the 2010 LeNez Pinot, smelled it and brought it to my lips……eeew! I just wasn’t prepared for the way the plastic felt and over the next couple of days never could get used to drinking wine out of those perfectly shaped plastic glasses. I guess next trip it is back to the glass.

But I am conditioned. I have been drinking wine out of good glasses for years. I have been salivating to the pop of a cork for equally as long. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks as the saying goes. Perhaps the millennial’s will salivate the moment the metal seal breaks as they twist off the screw cap. I wonder.

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An early harvest? Not so fast my friend.

The one thing that is predictable about fall in Oregon is that it is unpredictable and cool Septembers bring the most interesting wine. Sure we had early warm weather in April and May and appear to be headed for an early harvest. It is easy to think that way sitting here in Yamhill on August 6th at 93 degrees with the temperature in the middle of the vineyard  about 2 degrees beyond that.

veraison

But that’s why we keep notes and looking back we were at about the same place at this time in 2007. We have just started veraison, or color change over the weekend. In 2007 on the 10th of August we were about 10% through color change. By the 24th of September we were sitting at between 23 and 24 degrees brix throughout the vineyard under beautiful clear skys. At that point we were just waiting for flavor development.

Then the sh*&% hit the fan and it started showering, heavy at times, right through harvest. Fortunately our steep slope, windy site and well drained soil served us well. With a little patience the 2007 wines developed into one of my favorite vintages. The wines started out lean and with 2 years of bottle age gained color, texture and beautiful aromatics. Unfortunately the vintage was overlooked by most of the press and many consumers. By the time the early revues were in, many decided to forgo the vintage and wait for the 2008 wines. The 2008 vintage was being hyped as one of the best ever just as the 2007 wines were being released. But two years down the road many of us learned something invaluable about cool Oregon vintages and how they respond in the bottle.

Or did we? The 2011 vintage seems to be heading down the exact same track. The wines are hard to understand at the moment because they are lean but they are changing rapidly and I suspect will provide a great deal of pleasure in the near future and be delicious with a couple of years in the bottle. I may even delay the release of my 2011 Lenné Estate and bring the 2012 out ahead of time.

So what will 2013 bring? Despite the early start, the weather as been average, temperate just what we like. Ask me about 2 days before harvest and I will give you a better answer. Who knows what September will bring. What I can tell you is that while fall in Oregon is unpredictable, the cooler vintages in Oregon produce some of the most nuanced, delicious wines if you have a little patience. But you already knew that. Or did you?

 

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