An Early Summer Look at the 2023 Vintage
If we could see the future, we’d all be fabulously rich now, wouldn’t we? So, speculating on the 2023 Willamette Valley vintage as we write in June is really just guess work. Before the grapes are harvested, we will have many a hot day, cool night and, cross your fingers, gentle rain. In the best of circumstances, those hot days are not too hot, the cool nights not too cool and the rainy days wonderfully spaced and optimally gentle. We’d all like a Goldilocks season.
Meanwhile, 2023 is emerging as another interesting vintage. Last year, you may remember, spring frosts and even snow appeared to devastate the vines. In April, there was even talk of 100% crop loss and agricultural insurers were developing a nervous twitch. As it turned out, while primary growth was ravaged, secondary growth on the vines turned out to be surprisingly robust and a warm autumn gave a welcome boost to fruit maturation.
While we haven’t seen the same severe weather event this year, early spring was consistently cold and wet. Overall, bud break was three weeks late. You have probably witnessed the same thing in your garden where shoots and blossoms usually seen in April, or even March, did not show until May.
This can be a source of angst for vineyard managers and winemakers alike. While Pinot Noir especially is selected to thrive in the shorter, cooler growing season of the Willamette Valley, a three-week delay in harvest translates into anxious September days as managers and winemakers pray that frost and rain don’t come too early, forcing tough decisions on when to harvest.
Yet, once again, Mother Nature continues to surprise us all. After the late start, vine growth has been robust, one grower even categorized it as “the fastest I have ever seen.” Driven by hot May temperatures, vines have caught up to where they “normally” should be with grape flowering (one of the important milestones in vine development) happening close to the regularly expected time.
One of the things that sets wine apart from beer and spirits is unpredictability. Each harvest will be different. Most will be delightful in their own way. The depth of that delight may not even show for many years. A current tasting of the (at the time) questionable 2013 vintage will often prove the point.
So, while we can’t know what 2023 has in store, as of now it looks like a hopeful year. And Mother Nature has yet again reminded us of who’s in control.