In the Willamette Valley this spring, April 14-15 (just in time for taxes!), our region got hit by an extremely late frost—the first late frost in some 80 years.
As the Oregon wine industry didn’t kick off until about six decades ago, nobody in the knew what to expect. That triggered a panic within the winemaking/growing community, which seems to have simmered down a bit now.
While it’s true that some vineyards did experience damage, we are greatly relieved that ours was spared. Our biggest concern was for the 15 rows of Pinot Blanc we planted last fall. The new baby vines initially looked pretty sad after that frost, but have bounced back beautifully, and for that we are grateful.
That said, the frost was followed by a cool, wet Spring which only began to warm up around the end of June. With that turn of weather events, we estimate that our estate vineyard is running roughly three weeks behind “normal” in terms of grape development and harvest.
We were asked by wine writer and photographer Elaine Luxton, who publishes the DrinkInLife blog and who visited (and featured) us a couple of years ago, for our take on how the weather might impact the 2022 vintage. She rounded up input from several winemakers in our area for her post, “Spring Frost Deals A Waiting Game Card To Willamette Valley Winegrowers,” and wrote the following report from us:
A stop at Bells Up Winery to spend some time with owners Dave and Sara Specter was another opportunity to talk about the April frost this year and how it affected their vineyard just outside of the town of Newberg in the Chehalem Mountains AVA.
As we walked through the vineyard, I asked Dave if at this point he could tell if he was going to have more primary or secondary buds? Here’s what he told me:
“I can’t tell right now but I think it is going to be mostly primary, because we weren’t pushing that much when we had the frost.” He went on to add, “we have seen some pictures however, that our friends whose site is just a couple of miles away, sent us pictures of his place, he got hit hard. There was primary bud death where it was just crispy, what had pushed just turned browned and it had snapped. We did not see any of that here, so I am reasonably optimistic that we’re going to be okay.”
Dave went on to say, “Some around the valley have experienced much worse. Chardonnay has been hard hit, as well as pinot. But what we’re hearing is that there is a lot of resilience out there. Also, if you got secondaries the fruitfulness of those is going to be much much less but they will at least give you something. The last couple of years they have just been crazy weather wise.”
As it turns out, we’ve got a bumper crop out there of fat clusters in our established vines—which is super exciting because with this fall’s harvest we will be “100% Pinot Independent.” That is, all the Pinot Noir we will be making this year will be sourced entirely from OUR vineyard and OUR grapes for the first time ever. (Yes, there will be a T-shirt for our harvest helpers this year; let us know sooner than later if you’re interested in spending some time on the sorting line this Fall.)