The Story of the 2017 Oregon Pinot Harvest

Over Labor Day weekend, I looked at a few different vineyards and came up with my wish list. As many of you know, I found one in Hood River I was super excited about that ended up with “smoke taint” following the Gorge fires. There's nothing that can alleviate the wet, stinky-sock smell that occurs after fermentation. So after an ETS analysis, we had to pass on that vineyard. 

I ended up going with the Trout Lilly vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains outside of McMinnville in the Willamette Valley. I decided on two different clones: Pommard from one block, and 667 from another. After having to turn down the Hood River vineyard, I felt fortunate the Trout Lilly vineyard had two extra tons of fruit!  

The picking crew harvested this fruit at 6am on October 3rd, loaded the fruit into a Penske truck, and drove it back to Idaho. Of course I had to stop and pick up 300 pounds of dry ice to keep it cold for the trip and the cold soak. I'd also decided to do whole-cluster fermentation, which means the stems had to stay on, and of course there is only one way of extracting the juice from the berries: that’s right, good old-fashioned foot stomping! I was able to stomp four of the eight bins right there in the parking lot of the Air Gas Warehouse. I added a scoop of dry ice to every bin, then headed out of Portland toward Boise.

After arriving back in Boise close to 10pm, I called in the troops to help me finish stomping the other 4 bins. Those grapes were freaking cold and like concrete. Kerrie, Fred, Shauna, Kevin, and Lane all helped get the fruit tucked in for the night. We would transfer to bins in the morning. 

Will, Tim, and I pulled about 30 gallons of juice off the skins to provide more concentration to the fruit – this is our unofficial Rosé. Then we let the six bins cold soak for five days, all the while putting on the fishing waders and hopping into the bins to continue stomping. On day 4 of cold soak, I was finally able to use the punchdown tool. 

I added William Selyem yeast on day 6, moving from two "punchdowns" a day to three. Once the Brix (measurement of sugar by density) began decreasing, the pumpovers (see video below) began. After seven days, the Brix was down from 24 to 0, which meant it was time to do a light press. 

I drained the bins into French oak barrels the night of October 17, then did a manual light press on the 18th. The next day, I added the malolactic bacteria (oenococcus) strain MCW to each barrel. This is where the malic acid is converted to lactic acid, which causes the pH to rise a bit and gives the wine more finesse. Malolactic finished on December 12th, and a 6% sulfur solution was added on December 13 to keep away the unwanted microbial growth, which in general leads to a higher volatile acidity (the bad acid). At this time, I don't plan to rack (pull the wines off of the yeast cells) the Pinot Noir, only to stir the barrels until the mid-palate has evolved. The lees add silkiness to the texture of the wine.

"The Wine" will be released in October 2018!  Location to be announced.



P.S.  Please check out the Instagram link below for photos and video!