written by Sara Barber
Life is rarely about what happened, it's mostly about what we think happened which is precisely why in 2007 I kept a journal1. It contained everything that I had wished we had when we were writing the 2006 newsletter- weather forecasts, harvest dates, yields, fermentation curves, barrel selection as well as Jay's deteriorating physical and mental state.2
Six glasses of wine in, trying to work out which wines went native3 and which vineyards were included in the Cuvee E and Blackburn blends, both Jay and I struggled to recall what had transpired just a year prior. It was astounding how easily the 2006 vintage was confused with 2007 despite the fact that both were so incredibly different. It was at that moment4 I realized that some sort of reporting system was obviously required, so, I kept a journal.
This system worked well...really well. I was diligent about recording technical data which Jay analyzed; making notes regarding why he thought the numbers were what they were and what potential tools and techniques5 would be used. It was thorough and complete, and as I recall an incredible insight into the entire winemaking process6.
By the end of November all the information needed for the 2007 newsletter, with the exception of the finalized blends, was in one document. The file was forgotten about until the computer crashed and every program and document was lost, including, as you have probably guessed given the three paragraphs leading up to this, the 2007 harvest journal. So, the profound examination of the winemaking process will have to wait until the 2008 newsletter and, as for 2007, here is what we think happened.
It rained...a lot. There would be two week forecasts that projected nothing but rain. Jay being the ever optimist was convinced that not only was it going to stop raining and be sunny and dry, but that it was also going reach 75 degrees. He was so confident, despite all the contradictory forecasts, he posed a friendly wager. Needless to say, Jay never won7.
Eventually it did stop raining, but the days leading up to that were filled with angst and indecision. Most winemakers hesitantly picked even if the numbers8 weren't exactly where they would have liked them to be, some frantically harvested between the rains, and a few decided to wait it out. The decision of when to harvest was incredibly difficult; pick too soon and run the risk of having a lot of weak, watery, flavorless fruit, or wait with the rains continuing and potentially run the risk of not having any fruit at all. And Jay was in the worst possible predicament; the brix and pH for many of the vineyard sites were good, but every non-technical analysis9 indicated that flavors weren't quite there and that the fruit just needed more time. We had to wait.
Finally, in late September the rains stopped and we picked clean and beautiful fruit. The cooler weather during the rains10 minimized Botrytis and flavors had finally developed as a result of the additional time fruit was allowed to remain on the vines. All lots underwent an extended cold soak to extract as much color and flavor as possible and many went native with only one or two requiring any additions to ensure things didn't go awry. It appeared as if Jay made the right decisions, but don't go by my recollection of it; the proof is in the Pinot.
1 I use the word journal as this notebook contained no entries beginning "Dear Diary".
2 This undoubtedly was one of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of the entire journal.
3 native yeast fermentation
4 This idea may have actually been introduced earlier by Eric Lemelson who accidentally mistook me for Jay's secretary and mentioned that I should be "taking down" any and all pertinent information.
5 just tools and techniques, no tricks; tricks are for kids or people with a lot of money.
6 the operative words being "was" and "recall"
7 The bet was 75 degrees in the valley. There were one or two days in Portland where the criteria of the bet was met, but as the original terms of the agreement pertained to temperatures in Carlton/Dundee, Jays "win" was and still is under protest.
8 brix and pH
9 Non-technical analysis involves actually tasting the grapes.
10 In hindsight Jay losing the bet was the best possible outcome. It not only prevented me from having to buy him a large coffee, but also more importantly prevented any damage to the fruit caused by Botrytis.
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