Willamette Valley Oregon Harvest 2011 Update #4

Dear Family, Friends and Followers,

This is an update for week four, which almost mirrored week three, as we continued waiting for grapes to come in. Our team is looking forward to the long hours and hard work that harvest brings mostly so we can start to work off some of the padding starting to show around our work-shy midsections. Every bin of fruit that is received at a winery needs to be weighed for auditing purposes later. To do this, many wineries have a pallet-sized scale that is sensitive enough to weigh anything from a ton to a couple of pounds. The weight we are putting on during our wait falls somewhere between those two values.

For now, going out into the vineyards to gather random sample bunches for lab analysis is our best hope for some exercise. The winemakers will choose different divisions known as blocks within the vineyards to be analyzed for Brix, pH and TA. Brix represents the amount of sugar in the juice, while pH & total acidity show the acidity of the wine. Forgive me for not giving a detailed explanation behind the chemistry of the inverse relationship between Brix, pH and TA. When all three are at optimum levels, the grapes can be picked and that is what we are waiting on.

One fascinating aspect of collecting samples from vineyards is observing the genetic mutations that occur in Pinot vines. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc all share the same DNA and are genetically unstable plants. Genetic mutations will show in the form of random clusters of Pinot Noir showing up on a Pinot Blanc vine or Pinot Gris popping up in a Pinot Noir block, etc.. The most fascinating of theses genetic anomalies is called a Chimera. On a Chimera cluster, one will find two or perhaps all three of the Pinot grapes nestled together. This is bizarre, beautiful and mentally captivating to see. I happen to have two pictures of two different bunches. The first photo is of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes clustered together, while the second is a very rare shot of all three Pinot grapes on one cluster!

On Friday of week four, we finished early and headed to Portland where Harry (Chehalem’s owner) took everyone bowling. I now know that he is not only a skilled winemaker, extremely knowledgeable about the Willamette Valley and wine in general, but a bowling shark. I am on the opposite end of bowling talent and bowled poorly, frequently getting asked by teammates if I would like to have the kiddie bumpers raised during my frames. Most importantly, it was great to go out on the town as a whole team and enjoy the company of our harvest family. This truly is a good life.


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