Although we typically celebrate the fresh start of the New Year on January 1, the annual life cycle of the vineyard begins in late winter through the careful process of pruning. According to Vineyard Manager, Alex Moeller, pruning is the most impactful step in the life cycle of our vines. The pruning process is usually done by hand, but with the help of a pre-pruner, preliminary work reduces the labor involved in hand pruning.
The pruning process involves the vineyard crew carefully selecting canes that are best suited to bear fruit for the coming vintage. Pruning is truly an art, sculpting the architecture of the vineyard for the coming year.
Prune well, and the rest of the year will go smoothly.
As the crisp autumn air rustles the fiery orange vines, and the last “snip” of a pruner rings throughout the vineyard signaling one thing - Harvest 2018 is officially complete.
As always, the last fruit in our vineyard to harvest was our Single Acre Syrah, a warmer climate variety that must ripen at length to achieve varietal typicity.
The 2018 vintage presented a warmer and drier growing season. The vintage kicked off with an early bud break. June saw a cool, wet weather period during bloom that put the vintage back on track for a traditional September harvest. Cluster sizes were smaller and more conducive to producing high-quality wines. The most notable climatic feature to the 2018 vintage, was our extended summer harvest weather that continues as we post this video. This allowed us to pick based on ripe flavors and near perfect natural acidity.
Cheers to all those who made Harvest 2018 a success!
Essential to harvest, the Braud New Holland Grape Harvester assists with low maceration of our fruit while protecting the vines and trellis system from damage. This innovative machinery contains auto-leveling capabilities, sensors, and control systems; resulting in ease for the operator and the ability to tackle a variety of vineyard terrains. The harvester picks the fruit off the vine while preserving its quality, ensuring the highest caliber of winemaking. Only small amounts of MOG - or materials other than grapes - make their way into the harvest, which makes the next step, sorting, even more efficient.
Hooray for modern winemaking!
In the vineyard, much of our fate lies in the hands of the weatherman. No two years have the same weather pattern, therefore no two vintages yield the same expression of our vineyard. As revealed by Vice President of Vineyard Operations, Jason Tosch, characteristics of the 2018 vintage can only be predicted a week before harvest due to unpredictable weather conditions.
During a year that experienced colder than average conditions, fruit will be less ripe and more tart. The excess water from rain creates higher levels of acidity and lower levels of sugar. Lack of sugar results in a lower percentage of alcohol, creating a wine with a lighter body.
In contrast, a year that is warmer than average will yield a harvest of ripe fruit that is sweet and soft. Lowered acidity results in higher sugar and alcohol content, culminating a fuller body.
Are drones the future of vineyard management? Not only are they able to capture epic shots of our vineyard, Dr. Greg Crustinger of Scholar Farms reveals how drones are instrumental in vineyard management through vegetation mapping. Using aerial footage that is transformed into digitized heat maps, the vineyard is divided and assigned into levels of necessary care. Through this technology, Crustinger is able to assess the health of our vineyard and pinpoint problem areas. If that wasn’t cool enough, a thumb drive of the digitized map can be inserted into smart tractors or sprayers where action can be taken in precise locations.
Welcome to modern farming!
It’s getting hot in the vineyard - and it’s not just from the sunshine. Favored for cultivation, hermaphroditic grapevines contain both male and female reproductive organs, allowing them to self-pollinate.
In short - during fertilization, the calyptra, a structure protecting the undeveloped grape cell, sheds to free the pollen-producing male stamens. Landing on the centralized female stigma, the pollen is delivered to the ovary through a tube-like structure called the style. Upon completing its journey to the ovary, the pollen performs fertilization and the ovule develops into a grape seed. Just like that, flowering is underway.
Welcome to Plant Physiology 101.
As the sun breaks from the clouds and tasting room guests rise from their rain-induced hibernations, the countdown to harvest begins. In the vineyard, the Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is starting to show signs of individual florets while their neighbor, the Dundee Hills Chardonnay, has already reached full bloom. Flowering is a crucial time for the vineyard as wind, rain and cold weather could dislodge the delicate flowers. Roughly 400 feet up the hillside, Pinot Noir for our Legacy tier wines shows a much slower rate of development. Vice President of Vineyard Operations, Jason Tosch, points to elevation as the primary explanation for bloom disparity.
Our vineyard is divided into 101 meticulously farmed sections of seven varieties, ranging 220 to 640 feet in elevation. Just like the suntan Oregonians desperately need at this time of year, grapes at higher elevations develop an increased pigment concentration resulting in firm tannins, vivid color, and thicker skin to weather climate changes. The concentrated sunlight and cooler temperatures experienced by grapes at higher altitudes slows the ripening process and creates an excellent balance between flavor-activating sugars, acidity, and other chemical complexities. The combination of elevation and our volcanic soil help sweep rainfall from the roots and protect the vine.
Elevation creates unique differences between each of our wine tiers and our vintages, giving us an opportunity to showcase the many expressions of our vineyard. Click here to learn more about our vineyard with our interactive map.
The burst of vibrant green across the vineyard serves as a beacon of hope for waterlogged wine connoisseurs in the Dundee Hills. Gradual increases in temperature trigger water and stored nutrients to wake the vines from their long winter's nap. The last drops of stored carbohydrates transform twig-like branches into vines exploding with delicate buds.
Vice President of Vineyard Operations, Jason Tosch, reveals the distinct difference between the progressions of buds located only 570 feet apart. Due to their situations on our hillside, the conditions experienced by our Legacy tier Pinot Noir and Dundee Hills Pinot Noir vary significantly. Differing elevations, slopes, and aspects result in unique flavors and profiles in the mature fruit. Each block contains an individual balance of soil components, water retention and weather exposure. Although microclimates are the smallest measure of climate, they make a big impact. At Stoller, our site features a warmer climate due to the surrounding mountains. This allows for consistent ripening and ideal grape conditions.
The air is as fresh as the first stage in the cycle of the vintage is underway.