The 2019 vintage in Oregon’s Willamette Valley: A look back and 30 Pinot Noirs to try

2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Kalita Vineyard

‘The wines from 2019 have a youthful exuberance that is so exciting.’ Shane More of Zena Crown shares. ‘They ring with freshness, vibrancy, and vitality. Our 2019 Pinot Noirs are exhilaratingly pure and will live for decades.’

It was a cool and wet vintage in the Willamette Valley that was far more common a decade ago. After a stretch of warmer years from 2014 through 2018. Many winemakers welcomed a return of the conditions emblematic of the elegant and balanced wines that have buoyed the region’s reputation around the globe. The kind that they grew used to.

The signature style of Oregon’s Pinot Noir has been marked by its freshness, fresh fruit character and sois bois, or forest floor elements.

A sense of familiarity

‘When I think about the 2019 vintage’, says Sokol-Blosser, president and winemaker, Alex Sokol Blosser. ‘I think about an Oregon vintage that is more typical. We had a nice growing season, and then it started to rain in September before things were ripe. Rain is part of the deal here in the Willamette Valley, and it’s hard to get out of that deal unless you want to move.’

It was a cold early spring, and frost did create some challenges in the colder spots within the Willamette Valley. The wet July, highly unusual any year in the Willamette Valley, made managing powdery mildew a challenge early on during ripening. Then there were significant rains in late September which delayed ripening.

‘So patience was the name of the game. I remember several rain events in September which really pushed my patience level,’ Sokol Blosser continued.

‘The 2019 growing season was an absolute relief,’ according to Jessica Mozeico, owner and winemaker at Et Fille. ‘After warmer vintages punctuated by heat spikes and dryness, we finally saw cool harvest temperatures and rain. The rain came in waves at bud break, just after bloom, and before harvest. This did create some disease pressure, but it also moderated brix. It allowed us to let things hang a bit for phenolic and flavour ripeness and retained pH nicely.’

A breath of fresh air

The much-needed respite allowed the vines to recover physiologically. The 2019 vintage in the Willamette saw a full 400 fewer degree-days than the intensely warm 2018 vintage. (2101 compared to 2502 in 2018.)

‘Coming off the hotter previous years, the vines went to bed in the fall relatively stressed,’ Cliff Anderson of Anderson Family Vineyards tells me. ‘They yellowed fast, dropped leaves and went dormant right after harvest. In our experience, stress during and after harvest one year can tend to produce thinner skins and lighter, more elegant wines the following year.’

‘I believe this relationship is mainly due to the lower photosynthetic functioning post-harvest when the vines no longer prioritise sending sugars to the grapes.’

Cliff and Allison Anderson

‘These sugars usually are sent into the trunk and roots after harvest to build carbohydrate reserves for the vines budding out and setting fruit in the spring. Since the plants depend on these reserves during the fruit set. The lack of carbs stamps the coming vintage as less intensely ripe, dark and saturated. We saw this in ’04 after the harvest heat wave in ’03. And I think this phenomenon set the tone for 2019,’ Anderson explains.

The proof is in the Pinot

The results of the 2019 vintage are undeniable for fans of Oregon’s signature style, fresh fruit, earthy minerality, and bright acidity. Wines capable of ageing and far more comparable to Burgundy, than California Pinot Noir.

‘2019 is the highest-toned, lightest-coloured Pinot we’ve made in recent years. More like the elegant wines that put Oregon on the map back in the 1980s,’ Anderson remarks.

‘This vintage definitely shows up in the wines,’ Mozeico affirms. ‘They are livelier, brighter, and more energetic than the few preceding vintages with higher acidity and more moderate alcohol levels. Our goal for…


Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/the-2019-vintage-in-oregons-willamette-valley-a-look-back-and-30-pinot-noirs-to-try-497461/

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