The 2023 harvest season will go down in Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers’ history as a story of perseverance and unwavering support from stewards, winemakers, owners, and interns. The winemaking process requires precision to achieve the perfect harmony of expressions in the final product. Every year, we remember how lucky we are for the Willamette Valley’s exceptional weather, climate, landscape, and soil diversity. We are full of enthusiasm for this vintage and gratitude for those behind the winemaking process.
Determining the optimal picking window during harvest season is crucial. Timing influences the flavor, aroma, acidity, tannin, and sugar content of the wine. The winemaker’s choice aligns with their vision for the style, characteristics, and quality they want to see in the bottle. In the weeks leading up to harvest, winemakers must sample the grapes regularly to assess when they are ready. They must embrace flexibility, knowing that their plans could change at a moment’s notice. The grapes tell the winemakers when it’s time, not the other way around.
Spring was unseasonably cool and wet, causing a delay in flowering. However, warm summer days advanced the season and restored our normal harvest timeline. August’s heat wave and crisp, damp late September weather resulted in a swift, lively harvest. Brix and pH levels transformed almost overnight. It is one of the quickest seasons to date, with some vineyards completing picking in just 10 days.
Once the fruit is off the vine, it’s time to press. Winemakers choose their method based on the grape variety and desired characteristics of the wine. There are many ways to press, such as machine pressing and foot-stomping, each with advantages. Machine pressing uses a pneumatic or hydraulic press, processing a large volume of grapes simultaneously and allowing pressure control. Foot stomping encourages the slow, controlled extraction of flavor and tannins. It’s during this stage that the unique characteristics of the vintage reveal themselves.
Harvest Accounts from Some of Our Members
Adelsheim and Compris Vineyard both described this year’s harvest as “fast and furious.” Adelsheim commenced harvest with their sparkling blocks in their volcanic soil-rich Bryan Creek Vineyard. Afterward, they picked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and several other clusters from all six of their estate vineyards.
Compris had mapped out a game plan for harvest, allowing time for the grapes to absorb the early September moisture to lower sugar levels. However, after sampling on a whim early one morning, they realized it was time. With the help of dear friends, they harvested quickly and are thrilled to share what is expected to be an incredible vintage.
Ponzi Vineyards took a resting period between pickings to ensure that each varietal had properly developed. They also welcomed worldwide interns to experience the magic of the Willamette Valley harvest. Early indicators show wine with deep colors, bright acidity, and flavors of spice resulting from cool harvest nights.
Neighbors, Bells Up Winery and Oliver Springs Vineyard had the joy of picking on the same day and at the same time. Living side by side for 11 years, they help each other make farming decisions, share equipment, and give each other endless support. Experiencing harvest alongside close friends makes the season even more special. Shared laughter and camaraderie during long hours in the vineyard remind us of how lucky we are for the Willamette Valley’s wine community.
The Willamette Valley, recognized as one of the leading Pinot noir-producing regions in the world, creates distinct, yet phenomenal wines each year; 2023 was no exception. We can’t thank everyone involved in the harvest season enough and acknowledge that none of this would be possible without our community. We look forward to bottling and can’t wait for you to experience the 2023 vintage, hoping that you are just as thrilled and eager as we are. The journey from vine to bottle isn’t always easy, but it’s worth every minute.