Oregon Winemakers Optimistic

Experienced Oregon winemakers are quietly enthused about the potential of the 2008 vintage. Winemakers are rightfully conservative in their assessment of a vintage at this point in time because you never really can be sure about the quality of a wine until it’s actually wine. However, with experience winemakers obviously develop a pretty good idea of what to expect. Those expectations are starting to sound quite high for 2008.

Laurent Montalieu is one of the Willamette Valley’s most experienced winemakers. A veteran of Willakenzie Estate, today Montalieu owns Solena Cellars, the Northwest Wine Company and his newest venture, the ultra-premium custom crush winery Grand Cru Estates. Montalieu, pictured here (left) sampling a vineyard with winemaking consultant Tony Rynders, who is also winemaker at the new Grand Cru estates, has one of the widest experiences with the full range of Willamette Valley vineyards as his Northwest Wine Company deals with vineyards located throughout the Valley. Montalieu comments about this vintage, “The beautiful Indian summer has saved us one more time… essentially right now I am looking at hanging the balance of our fruit as late as possible….. if the fruit is not getting worse it has to be getting better…. So far the ferments have shown great purity of the aromatics  and the extraction level will be quite structured .We are in for a treat of a vintage, remember 1999?”

Winemaker Scott Wright, owner of Scott Paul Cellars, also has a great depth of experience with Oregon vintages. Before founding his own winery, Scott was general manager of Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Wright says of the 2008 vintage so far, “We’ve been very happy with the quality of the fruit we’ve brought in so far – very clean and healthy, excellent flavors, really nice pH & acids – potential alcohols in the low 13s – exactly what we’re looking for. Yields have been on the low side – averaging about 1.5 tons per acre so far. We’ve got about 2/3 of our fruit in now, and will likely finish up today and tomorrow. The potential is there for a really nice vintage!”

Superstar winemaking consultant Tony Rynders (pictured above, right) had a decade knocking out one 90+ rated wine after another as winemaker at Domaine Serene before launching his own consulting company and taking on winemaking duties at Grand Cru Estates. On the 2008 vintage Rynders notes, “Harvest 2008 is well underway in the Willamette Valley.  We have remained about 10 days behind in ripening based on the last ten years.  But is actual fact, we are right at our long term average for harvest timing. After a little rain at the beginning of the month, we have had a nice stretch of weather for the last 12 days.  Flavors have come on strong and the sugars are very reasonable.  This latest weather development has been critical for flavor development and phenolic maturity.  The cold soaks are showing beautiful color.  The wines are going to be very pretty with excellent balance. We are about 60% complete with another 20% due in the next three days.”

You are hearing similar comments from winemakers throughout the Willamette Valley. The potential is there for a very special vintage in the classic Oregon style, which emphasizes balance, structure, aromatics and elegance with moderate alcohol levels. I’m looking forward to drinking these wines.

Pictured below, a picker in Tony Soter’s Mineral Springs Vineyard.

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