12 Oct 2016 Annual Letter
Farm life has its surprises, most of them seasonal and not particularly dramatic. There are exceptions such as the year of the literal drenching when five inches of rain fell overnight at the beginning of harvest. That was not one of the better quality grape years.
Our latest drama is a bit tedious, but certainly has our attention. For three years our weather has been warm and warmer. This year a burst of July-like heat took place in May. The grape season was jump-started. Vines shot their blossoms earlier. Buds formed earlier. For the first time in our sixteen years in Oregon harvest began in August on the 31st and finished on September 23rd. Ironically, the third week of September is when we usually start picking fruit.
We fretted. How would the vines respond? What would the fruit be like? What would be different? A couple of things happened.
Our vines needed more potassium, a lot more. Prodigious consumers of the mineral, grapevines need it for root growth, fruit size and plant metabolism. Is the cause heat?
The second effect was the need to run our drip line irrigation more than ever before. How much water we put in the plants depends on the moisture content as measured by underground sensors. Fortunately Lazy River’s well is excellent. All of us in the wine business wonder about the future weather. The change is huge. For instance one year we irrigated only once.
On the other hand, we had far fewer birds here to strip the berries from our clusters. They missed dining on very high quality Pinot Noir grapes. We do take measures to protect the fruit. Most often netting is strung across the fruiting area on every other row. This year only the fruit which border the perimeter of the vineyard were netted. That did the job. We still shot the bird cannon (a blast of noise) and broadcast bird distress calls.
When we picked our yields were slightly lower than the previous two years. The grapes were everything we could hope for—balanced acids and sugars, beautiful color. Our pickers all came from Oaxaca, Mexico, and are known for their slight build and intense work habits. Upon finishing a block, cheers go up, and they are off to the next section.
Every year you all get a report on the family harvest weekend. For the first time it was smaller. The usual back-to- school cold infected one third of our family pickers, and the Fowlers remained in Bellevue missing our annual harvest event. We did have some subs.
This year Georgia celebrated her 14th birthday and brought three friends to experience farm life. The bunk room reverberated with laughter and talk. The sleep deprived girls, did not get up for the early morning picking, but did find a late morning ride in the ATV a perfect prelude to Mexican food for lunch. Afterwards they disappeared to the bunks and reappeared that evening to celebrate G’s birthday. Her brother Alden and cousins, Vernon and Walter filled their buckets and pocketed their bucks. However the young women were not intrigued by the labor side of farm life.
As the farmer grandparents we thought the highlight of the visit was standing on the front deck, binoculars in hand tracking the bobcat who was hunting gophers in the pasture. Known for being shy and solitary, we’ve seen this guy four times in the past two weeks.
What is new for you to sample? Our Pinot Noirs, the 2014 August Wilhelm and the just bottled 2015 Estate. We will bring to Seattle a clutch of whites, leftovers from various years. Because we have so few bottles they will be for sale, but not for tasting. The good news is that in time for summer drinking we will have a favorite, Pinot Gris.
Thanks very much for your support.
Kirsten and Ned for The Lumpkin Family