As they walked the rows that second week of November, it was clear the vintage was coming to its foregone conclusion. The canopy was showing the signs of a very long and cool growing season. Most of the leaves were gone and the ones that were left were no longer conducting photosynthesis or providing shade for the fruit. The field was expertly managed and the grapes were clean, no mildew or rot to speak of.
“Ideal” thought Ernie, as he began tasting the berries. A cool 2011 vintage had provided a very long hang time, without the concentration of sugars that can plague Eastern Washington or California Syrah with high alcohol.
That lead to another obvious conclusion, the skins had weathered an epic growing season and developed very expressive aromas and flavors. The other signs were there too, dark brown seeds, a breakdown of the gelatinous pulp within the berry but those pungent Syrah aromas and expressive flavors were just farming stunning.
As they walked and talked, Ernie mapped out that Syrah block. There were 4 clones and he knew that three of them were Northern Rhône specific. Those were the ones he wanted. He had 4 harvest bins there and that should just about do it.
“If you want it, you will have to pick it. You can go ahead and leave your bins here until you are ready. But we are turning off the cannons today. We have everything else harvested.”
Ernie said, “See you in the morning,” and the deal was done.
Ernie and two field hands arrived before first light in hopes of getting ahead of the bewinged attack that was sure to be set upon them. The weather was impending doom, with a storm front set to move in that afternoon. They each took rows specific to one of the three Northern Rhône clones and the bucket race was on! By 9:00 it was all over. The harvest bins were loaded up in the truck and the torrent of rain had been denied.
The Vintage: The 2011 growing season provides us yet another lower alcohol, cool climate vintage. Our vineyard heat accumulation finished up at 1,794 degree days. This continues the run of cooler vintages that began in 2007. The wines produced from these cool vintages very much reflect the vineyard site and how they were tended throughout the season.
The 2011 vintage got off to a relatively late start in the Spring. We typically see the first buds breaking around the 15th of April (Note: this is harvest time for the IRS), but Mother Nature must have filed for an extension, so we waited until the 5th of May. The growing season was cold and protracted.
We have come to accept that the months that matter most are the ones that end in “ber.” September put on a strong showing with warm dry days and cool nights. This was the weather we were hoping for all year. The weather held into October, and we began the annual “Cluster Pluck” on October 23rd. You can read all about the 2011 growing season and Harvest AAR (After Acton Report) by visiting the Amalie Robert FLOG (Farming bLOG) here: www.amalierobert.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html
Tasting Notes: Sultry Red. Smoke, minerals, graphite, black licorice, Kalamata olive, uncured meat and rosemary permeate. Swift and suave yet muscular and articulate, the palate endures an array of primal dark fruits restrained by the natural acidity and eviscerating whole cluster tannins of a cool and lengthy vintage.
Culinary Inclinations: Venison loin Wellington with sautéed colored beets and corn, garlic, onion and potato fritters.
iSyrah is 100% North Willamette Valley, hand harvested Syrah. During the dwindling days of the 2011 vintage, it came to Ernie’s attention that a small block of Syrah grown at a nearby winery was going to go to the birds, literally. “Well, we can’t have that” was Ernie’s thought on the matter.
Just the week before, he had delivered a few bins of Amalie Robert Pinot Noir. That fruit had been long since processed so he drove up there to retrieve his empty harvest bins. When he arrived, he was told by the winemaker that they were not going to use their Syrah this year.
“Do you want it? We are going to turn off the cannons today.” Birds were already in the air ready to execute their own harvest. “Well, let’s go have a look and see.”