Willamette Valley Oregon Harvest 2011 Update #1

As sent via email on September 27th, 2011 by Luke:

Dear Family, Friends and Followers:

One week ago, I arrived at the Chehalem Winery property set in the hills of the Chehalem Mountains AVA just North of Newburg, Oregon. Cautiously I drove my 30 ft. and 30 year old Burning Man RV onto the gravel parking lot and driveway of the winery, where I was immediately greeted by Holden, the bloodhound/great dane mix joyously protecting the site. Right behind him were Wynne, Chehalem’s assistant winemaker, and Felix, a fellow harvest intern from Germany. The three pointed to a good place to park my roving behemoth, HaRVy Dent. After climbing out, I knew that the end of this cross-country journey signaled the beginning of a new one: the 2011 Northern Hemisphere Harvest in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

We walked up the gravel driveway lined with Italian Plum and Rainier Cherry trees towards the house revealing itself in the golden light of a late summer evening. I was elated to find that the house was an original Craftsman home set within Chehalem’s Corral Creek Vineyard. Immediately inside, Stickley furniture and original Craftsman woodwork fill the living areas. Bookshelves filled with many eras’ novels and books on every imaginable aspect of wine line some walls while others contain wide windows looking out into the vineyard. There is a kitchen prepared for any level of chef and is clearly used by all frequently. Adjacent to the kitchen is a large dining room outfitted with a bar including just about any libation imaginable and enough glassware to support a fairly large party. Wynne showed me the upstairs bedroom that would be mine along with all of the other necessities I might need: laundry, entertainment, etc. My mind was a blur; taking in such generous accommodations and already imagining what would inevitably be many incredible times spent in this house.

That first evening we went to a co-worker’s house, ate pizzas, drank beer, chatted and drank some incredible wines. With an NFL game buzzing in the background, we chatted on full stomachs. My previous thoughts about good times ahead refocused away from the house, to the people I was with. I knew then that this would be a wonderful harvest. That night I fell asleep with my bedroom window open, listening to frogs and bugs singing night songs in the surrounding fruit trees, looking forward to the next few months.

To be fair, the first week was hardly a harvest week, making the transition much easier to handle. Monday was spent at the tasting room just two miles away preparing 450 boxes for an impending wine club shipment. Tuesday, another intern, Cheney, and I moved pallets of wine to a warehouse. Wednesday was spent cooking large pots of Thai red curry, Irish beef stew, pomodoro sauce made with heirloom tomatoes & basil grown on the property, and baked beans for meals during the harvest. Thursday, we hand bottled and corked magnums of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Finally, to wrap up the week, Andy, a fellow intern, and I spent the first half of Friday cooking pulled pork, coleslaw and Carolina BBQ sauce for 25 people in anticipation of a party the winery was throwing at our house that night.

At 2:30PM on the Friday afternoon, all of us were finished with work for the day so we walked up to the house and began drinking beers on the front porch. Romain, yet another intern, and I found a Bocce set and played a game between rows of Pinot Noir while sipping on a 1999 Chehalem Reserve Riesling. The whole time I was throwing the bocce towards the pallino and laughing with Romain, I repeatedly thought one thing: Life is good.

Luke Mathews

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