Musings, miscellaneous and more…
Reflections on the 2014 Vintage at Crawford Beck Vineyard
The world of farming, at least at CBV, is a seasonal thing, and the most important season is the growing season. The other parts of the year are really preparation for the time when the grape vines again demand attention, when the ripening grapes prompt worry, and when our eyes are on the weather.
The weather of the 2014 vintage was remarkable. Great wine, we firmly believe, is made in the vineyard, depending in part on how the vineyard is managed, but depending mostly on the soils in which the grapes grow. Therefore, the vineyard is, for the most part, fixed, so the weather is our main variable; it creates the characteristics of the vintage..…and 2014 was one for the record books. The spring started out a bit wet, but the rain stopped by the end of May, and we had no further appreciable rain until after harvest. The days of April and May were warm and sunny, and the buds burst from their winter coatings several weeks earlier than in previous years. Likewise, the grape flowers bloomed several weeks earlier than usual, but even more importantly, because there was no rain and little cloudiness, the bloom period was very short, causing the grape berries to develop with great synchrony. This tale of perfection continues with a warm, but not hot, summer, and the grapes began to turn color the second week in August, also several weeks earlier than usual. Harvest began in the middle of September, and was completed by the first week of October, before rain or pests (mold or birds) descended, and the flavors of the grapes were remarkable. We have captured the season photographically (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YStfBeF8RQ).
It is pleasant to reminisce about the beauty of the 2014 crop and how perfect the clusters were, and to anticipate how fine the wine that is now resting quietly in our clients’ barrels will be. We have no illusions that we will see weather like that of 2014 in 2015. The amount of heat that we received in 2014 topped that of the last ten years (http://www.crawfordbeck.com/vineyard-weather/historical-weather-data/), and probably much longer but no one was keeping records here at CBV then. It is also pleasant to look about the farm and to see that progress that other projects have made. In particular, the oak habitat restoration that occupies about 10 acres of the southeast corner of the farm has a new crop of native plants. With a new mower, we are keeping the blackberries and other invasive species at bay, and new little oaks are growing. No, we do not expect to see those little oaks become big oaks, but someone must start the process. The area of the restoration that we have designated an oak savanna is about to enter its next phase. We are working to clear out the invasive, non-native grasses growing there, and the next step will be to turnover the soil to make sure that the roots will not regrow. We may be ready to replant that area with native grasses in the fall of 2016.
One of the gifts we received in 2014 was a haiku written by a Portland State student who visited our vineyard:
Crawford Beck Vineyard
by L.L. Durden
Haiku is written from the imagined perspective of the owners of the vineyard
Layers of basalt wrapped in white clay
Mineral vintage 2011
Fire crafted, Oregon oak savannah
Restored. Songbirds finding their place
Himalayan blackberries distract the starlings.
From the sky: boots on the ground; eye level
Microbiomes, data everywhere, over-time-
The 2010 Vintage at Crawford Beck Vineyard
It is quite certain that some philosopher, poet, or ancient chronicler noted that nothing worth having is easily won. That, in short, applies to the 2010 harvest at CBV. The usually delicate dialogue between the vigneron and his vines devolved more often than not into a shouting match during the year. Often the counter-clockwise airflow around low-pressure weather systems that swept from the Pacific into northern California brought cool, damp easterly breezes to western Oregon. This cold weather delayed the bloom of the vines until weeks after the normal time. Although the set of fruit was more than adequate, the slow accumulation of heat led to slow development of the grape berries, and véraison, the time when the green berries take on their mature colors, did not begin until near the end of August, the time when normally the luscious sweet clusters are baking in the autumn sun and taking on deep flavors.