2013 was a year of consistent warm, dry weather. Until late September, that is. After a relatively dry winter and early spring, bud break in the Willamette Valley overall was the earliest since 1992. Bud break in my blocks occurred between the 3rd week and last weeks of April, the last of which were my Old Block and the Long Rows at Maresh. Summer was consistently warm, but with none of the heat spikes over 100F like in 2009, for example. There was a little bit of rain during bloom in my blocks (late June), but that is nothing extraordinary.
This year, when I was shoot thinning in my Maresh blocks (early May), the vines produced far less double strong shoots than in 2012. Of course. I didn’t know whether it was more for resting from the year before, or to prepare for a very different kind of harvest than in 2012. Or both. After veraison, I was becoming slightly dismayed about the warm vintage, especially without the canopy there was in 2012 to balance things out. I like the cool vintages. But, really, with old vines and/or wholesome farms on lands with much to transmit, the wines always seem to go to the middle. They have a certain temperance (in the old definition of the word) that I trust and love each and every year. Veraison in my blocks occurred around the end of August/early September. In September I pulled some more leaves on the eastern side of the rows and removed all clusters I did not want picked in my blocks at Maresh.
Then the rains came. Not just any rains but typhoon-like rains during the last week. A deluge of up to twelve inches in some places that resulted in one of the largest rainfalls on record for September. Many had vineyards that were ready to pick before these rains, especially those with vines on sedimentary soils. But my blocks to date have bloomed a couple of weeks later than the annual average. These vines are on their own time. They were not ready to pick before the rains, and I waited it out while watching horizontal rains and flooding and more rainbows than I have ever seen. There were some beautiful times in these rains. Finally, they stopped and I was able to pick. Picking occurred on 2 October (all blocks at Maresh) and 7 October (Momtazi). I was worried because of the skins at Maresh being terribly soft. I ended up doing quite a bit of whole cluster. I am so glad I did. My fruit at Momtazi, as crazy as it was, was picked completely untouched by all of this. It was one of the best years yet. Below is what I wrote not too long before my fruit was picked:
28 September 2013 (on facebook): “If I were a saint (this word used only to make a point!), I would be the patron saint of all things archaic (not related to this post) and of what many might call ‘difficult.’ People definitely included. It is my heart's desire that my 2013's have some of the willful, moody, unpredictable, taunting, tricky, stormy, and rainbow-y energy of September. Never have I seen so many rainbows during harvest, and the baseline for rainbows in this beautiful land is always high. There appears to be a lot of light inside the darkness in the sky lately and it is exciting in the extreme. And today is the start of my (sweet) sixteenth vintage!”
The weather in October ended up being glorious. It was during elevage in the winter that I was moved to tears by the wines. I had spent a lot of extra time in the ferments, watching them so carefully. There were no problems, but I was vigilant. Really, the wines were all over the place even while I was barreling them down. They were wild. I was tasting barrel composites all day, not looking for anything. The composites were for analysis of malolactic and I always use that opportunity to taste. I could not believe how lovely they were. It was as if they, themselves, became rainbow-y after their own tempest. I’ll never forget this feeling. They became swans. I love the 2013’s. And now I can say with confidence that a vintage is not (necessarily) made by rain or no-rain. It is far bigger than that.