With pickers gathering clusters in the vineyards and bins of fruit making their way to our Salem Hills production facility, Willamette Valley Vineyards is bringing in the biggest vintage in the company’s history.
Not only is the fruit plentiful, the quality of the fruit is indicating an excellent vintage for 2022.
Oregon Wine Enthusiasts gathered around several bins of Pinot Noir grapes at Bernau Estate Vineyards for the first pick of the 2022 harvest. These Pinot Noir grapes will eventually make sparkling wines to be sold at Domaine Willamette.
“The grapes are looking and tasting amazing and I am really excited for the quality of wine we will produce,” said Assistant Winemaker Brandon Shelby.
Harvest is an exciting time every year, but this year we are delighted with the results. Following a late frost in April and a cool spring, our vineyards experienced ideal growing conditions this summer and vineyard crews began harvesting fruit in late September.
Harvest started with early picks of Pinot Noir at our Bernau Estate Vineyard in Oregon's Dundee Hills. The first pick was dedicated to sparkling wines. These wine grapes have higher acidity levels that give our sparkling wines the structure to age for years and the ability to remain bright after secondary fermentation.
Bernau Estate Vineyard’s lower elevation at 280 to 300 feet off the valley floor allows for the fruit to ripen earlier than higher elevation sites such as Elton Vineyard, Tualatin Estate Vineyard, Loeza Vineyard and finally the Estate in the Salem Hills, where the grapes will ripen towards the end of the growing season.
The Estate Vineyard is traditionally one of the last sites to be harvested due to the cooler weather in the Salem Hills as well as the vineyard’s ability to let the fruit hang a bit longer for sugar and flavor development.
Viticulturist, Clay Wesson
Flowering took place in the vineyard in mid-July, a signal to the vineyard crew that the 2022 harvest would take place later than previous vintages. Healthy vine development continued through the summer and a warm, first half of October gave the vineyard crew great weather for picking. The warmer dry weather also allowed for planting cover crops, which help preserve overall vine health and sustain future yields.
“It was a nervous start to the year due to the freeze in April that burned some primary buds,” said Clay Wesson, Willamette’s Viticulturist. “As the year progressed and the warmer weather came in, new shoots grew around the damaged buds, allowing for the growth necessary for the grapes to develop. This is turning out to be a great vintage.”
Brandon is celebrating his 19th harvest at Willamette this year. He said harvest appeals to him in almost all aspects, including receiving grapes for the sparkling wine program, watching fermentation and pressing off our Pinot Noir before laying it to rest in the barrel.
“Still, it’s always an amazing feeling when we finally get the last of the grapes in the door for the vintage,” he said.
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