The 2013 harvest is now officially over except perhaps the few acres left out there for ice wine production. Overall the vintage is excellent even though the growing season has been quite a roller coaster.
The season kicked off with a bang starting with a warm spring and unfortunately, a few untimely rains during bloom. This caused shattering and uneven berry sets. As a result we have witnessed many clusters with varying berry sizes and uneven levels of ripeness within the same cluster both in Oregon and Washington. All summer long, the season stayed warm and ahead of a normal year in heat unit accumulation giving every indication of an early harvest, which usually means we should prepare for a quick harvest with low acids, high sugar, high phenolic content, modest flavors and a fast and furious picking schedule (not ideal). As so often in grape growing, that was without counting on Mother Nature’s way of shuffling the cards!
These are the four things we noticed with the 2013 vintage:
1. We saw outstandingly high yields – I have seen many Riesling vineyards in Washington pushing 7 tons per acre this year – this caused a collateral blessing of slowing down the ripeness considerably and allowing flavors and sugar concentration to be more aligned.
2. The heat units seemed to have been unfairly distributed. The very hot days contributed to many heat units but those days do not contribute to maturity (it was just too bloody hot). Also, the vines created of larger canopies this year so we did not see much phenolic content developing in whites as feared.
3. A huge storm came through in early September bringing several inches of rain to the Pacific Northwest and often bringing the sugar levels down a percentage brix.
4. The temperature did not rise after the storm which brought ripening to a halt. Some blocks did not recover in sugar from the storm even after two more weeks of post-storm ripening. As a result, the bulk of the grapes were harvested in October and October 30th was our last day of picking.
The 2013 vintage looks very nice with good acids, pH slightly higher than usual but in check, low sugar levels and a wide range of flavors based on which days the grapes where harvested. We will see awesome wines of good quality this year from Oregon and Washington.