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Vintage Overview

 

Our goal each vintage is transparency, which means we craft our wines to reflect the growing season of each year. We feel this is a pretty honest approach to winemaking that produce some pretty expressive and exciting wines. Here's our take on current and past vintages as a guide to exploring our wines.


2015 VINTAGE REPORT

Not sure if it was a midlife thing or the series of lunar eclipses that passed through my astrological chart, but whatever it was 2015 wiped my inner hard drive clean and not one thing, including winemaking, was spared a complete overhaul. My number came up and I went with it...had no choice near as I could tell. 2015 was also the hottest year on record in Oregon and had everybody on the run for months wondering if air conditioning should be a standard feature in all our homes. It was crazy hot...and seemed to be making everyone crazy, not just me! Meanwhile the vines had no way to get relief other than go into lazy mode, shift into low gear and wait it out. There are different ways to calculate vine metabolism but in the name of efficiency and survival things just move slower for a plant whose only break comes when the sun goes down. So in theory the grapes develop under extreme heat like we had in 2015 is actually slower than one would think. This is what explains the odd and completely unexpected freshness and acid retention that the 2015's have. Instead of coming in exhausted and beat down the grapes had amazing presence and buoyancy, from the color hue to the natural acid to the surprising complexity which had most winemakers positively giddy after 2014.

As for winemaking, my existential crisis had me going back to the basics and making the wine in the simplest way possible. Back to the basics...nothing superfluous...terroir, terroir, terroir. I'm more comfortable in that place and I'm reassured as I taste through the barrels that the wines are also. Less is more, the wines are better, everybody wins! Winemaking follows life a little bit...you start simply, then make things more complicated, then go back to simple...to find happy. 2015's are if nothing else happy wines.


2014 VINTAGE REPORT

Sometimes a vintage comes along that I have no idea how to treat. As picking approaches I try and interpret the sum total of every growing year and its bottom line effect on the forthcoming wines...it's standard stuff for every winemaker to wring their hands and come up with a game plan. We need that baseline to go on and 2014 didn't offer much in advance! But the grapes came in the door (always do!) and we were pushed into action. Well, in my case I get 10 days of cold soaking to get it togeher before the ferment gets rolling, but whatever, the table was set and I did have to act! The logical thing to do when the basic nature eludes you is to check the chemistry...better living through science! Measure the juice and get the numbers and maybe the answer will be in THEM. Low and behold the first clues did come from the numbers...the letdown of fairly high ph, really low acid and medium to high sugars. Not the most inspiring base line. But it is what it is and knowledge became power...even if it was reluctant power. It was time to tinker, it couldn't be avoided!!

Truthfully I cannot explain why 2014 was so odd. The Spring and Summer were normal, bud break on time and an uneventful, if a little hot, growing year. But nothing extreme that would define this almost bland set of parameters in the juice. I hang around ome pretty smart vignerons and have yet to hear what the hell happened. All I know is bags of tartaric acid were flying around the valley and the question I heard wasn't would acid be used...it was HOW MUCH! So with that in mind, I could only assume (and by now it was sinking in) that serious terroir was not in the cards and the imprint of 2014 (as do the warmer vintages typically) would ape the wines. If any diversity could be had it would come from the hands of the winemaker...from the "process"...as we call it. (Sounds better than "interventionist") 

Long story short, stem inclusion at varying amounts throughout every lot became the ticket...at least the horse I was hitching the 2014 wagon to. Marcus Goodfellow coined a phrase for winemaking that always stuck with me, "complexity through diversity". And if Mother Nature doesn't deal her own diversity, we have to! So ahead I went and the results are fascinating as I was able for the first time to evaluate each fruit source with 2-3 different stem treatments and learn a whole bunch about a lot of things. (That's all I'm going to say since the minutiae would put you to sleep). But the vintage was saved!


2013 Vintage Report

Now this is my kind of vintage!! This was an amazing vintage that didn’t appear so in the months leading up to harvest. We had a hot year on our hands and it looked like another high alcohol, low acid situation which leaves me uninspired. When you spend the better part of 2-3 years handling and selling a vintage it’s nice when it moves you. Luckily and totally unexpectedly 2013 does that!! The key was the hot growing year took a hard left turn at the end and changed course. The cool weather and rains were predicted but it was too early to pick which was fine with me. Grapes weren’t mature and the extra hang time was a welcome scenario. But it did get interesting, and by that I mean a totally sketchy! The first rain event wasn’t scary, but the second rain looked pretty severe. And suddenly it was decision time. 6 inches of rain in 3 days will make the most hardened winemaker flinch and start sterilizing the de-stemmer! That front will be the narrative of the vintage forever. ”Did you pick before or after the rain?” Well, we did both. We scheduled everything to come between the little rain event and the big rain event…which was supposed to be a 4 day window. But it turned into a 2 day window and we had to wait and watch the gutters overflow for 3 solid days. We hadn’t seen rain like this in forever…saying a lot for Oregon! In the end, pre and post rain wines vary wildly but as to the qualitative merits it’s hard to make an argument for one or the other. They’re just different. But one thing is for sure, the wines are elegant and complex and light and contain that all essential sweet spot (owing to the warm before the storm) that sits just behind everything else and keep you wanting more. They’re amazingly drinkable and refreshing. They remind me of 1993, which if you know Oregon vintages, is really, really high praise! I hope I’m right.


2012 Vintage Report

2012 was a welcome vintage after the borderline 2011, which saw very cool temperatures and threshold ripeness. With 90 days of no rain and a finale that included a burning East wind event (the “oh shit...we need to pick!!” moment) it was destined to be the opposite of 2011…it was going to be fruity!!! But it wasn’t smooth sailing. Bud break and set were typical, mid-April and early July, but fruit set was on the low side in many places lending to an advanced pace of sugar production to go along with low yields. Sunburn was also an issue as the canopies of the vines tended to be on the lean side providing little protection against the sun. As things went along it was clear we were in for a “riper” wine vintage and indeed in the end most everyone produced dark and structured wines. We were forced to pick early or suffer excessive alcohol levels and low natural acidity. The saving grace was the steady temperatures, albeit hot, which balanced growth and allowed an even pace of ripening. It was not a “hang-time” year to be sure. Some argue the 2012 vintage is exceptional while some feel it’s one dimensional…everyone has their preferences and Pinot Noir is such a sponge that vintage differences are rarely subtle. For me, as time goes by they are reminiscent of the 2009’s with broader shoulders. They’re not overly complex but have structural elements that go nicely with the generous fruit they carry.


2011 VINTAGE report

2011 has been referred to as the “miracle vintage”. In the lead-up to harvest the challenging 1984 vintage came to mind as growers and winemakers were faced with immature grapes and cold, wet weather in early October. These conditions were set up by a cold beginning to the growing year and a very late bud break (May 8th!). The next two months warmed and brought on an early July bloom, bringing harvest back into a respectable window (late October). Ripening the natural tonnage would have been impossible so heavy thinning was critical given the slow pace of the growing season. August and September were warm and clear, great! But then the rains came and temperatures fell and everyone started getting pretty nervous until a well-timed (and seemingly miraculous) break in the weather came the second week of October and it was go time. Yes, many of the pickings were at lower brix but the wines do not reflect the panic that we all felt. Instead they display a mature vigor as a result of long hang time and naturally high acid and low alcohol. I can’t recall a vintage with so much energy. The wines carry nice tannins for backbone and have remarkable freshness. 2011 had us all on edge for a moment, but the wines are on an edge too, where the best wines often reside. 


2010 VINTAGE report

2010 was simply an excellent vintage for Oregon, and already, references to the great 1993 and 1999 vintages are being heard…good company indeed! Early warmish weather led to an average bud break timing of April 12th. From there, weather got a little fussy and three months of cool temperature led to a delayed bloom occurring on July 10th. Counting 100 days from full bloom to ripeness (which is typical) this was setting up to be a very late harvest, October 20th (at the earliest!). This meant we absolutely needed the elusive “Indian Summer” to get us through. Fortunately, from this point the vintage played out well and while temperatures remained on the cool side late September was blissful, as was October, bringing the much needed heat units to set up a worry free harvest. Very minor rain events led to a window of picking that was generous enough to meet all of our needs as we commenced October 17th and finished (with the Chardonnay) on October 27th. The resulting wines are fresh, lean, flavorful and complex. They're drinking well now and show much promise to age well. This vintage will be remarkable for years to come.   


2009 Vintage report

Reminiscent of the 2006 and 2003 vintages, 2009 presented us with another full and forward vintage. Harvest commenced early, Sept 26, and went to the 12th of October. All of the Pinot noir was off the vine by the 7th of October. The late pickings were mature and the early pickings demonstrate a freshness that translates into amazingly drinkable wines. The combination of the two elements brings us a delightful and layered vintage that has both a serious and fun side.

Fermentation revealed bright acidity, classic Pinot noir color, and lean tannin structure. The ester profile leans toward high tone sweeter fruit supported perfectly by vibrant and youthful acidity. Extended barrel time brings polish and balance to the wines. 2009 will demonstrate ‘drink now’ tendencies along with strong age worthy potential, and looks to be another distinct Oregon vintage.  


2008 vintage report

An amazing growing year led to an exceptional Oregon vintage which is already being categorized as one of the best on record. Harvest began late which is always a good sign. Earliest picking for Crowley came October 14th and the last October 28th. All of the numbers we look for as a gauge of ripeness looked good. Acids were firm, ph’s were in a stable range, and sugars were perfect. Of course at this stage you are excited but it got even better.

Once in the fermenter, amazing color began to extract into the juice, soft tannins began to form and flavor profiles seemed layered and complex. Suddenly it appeared we may be getting everything we want out of the 2008 vintage. Needless to say that sentiment did hold true and indeed after 18-20 months in barrel the wines remained fresh and exciting and complex. Once in bottle and into maturity the 2008 wines strike a perfect balance between powerful and graceful and seem to be extremely age worthy while also approachable.