Three Feathers Harvest Report 2020
As I write this, sitting in a comfortable chair with my feet up, it is hard to believe that the Harvest was a mere month ago. I have only now started to calm down and not feel that I must leap out of bed at 5 AM to work.
The rains have finally arrived in Oregon. The grapes are picked, the rows are limed, tilled, and planted with a cover crop of crimson clover which is beginning to germinate despite cooler temperatures. There are still rows where netting needs to be rolled up, a tricky job that requires three or four people and a lot of patience.
Our season started at the end of April with bud break. Situated at a higher elevation, we avoided the problems experienced in the lower Willamette Valley where bloom coincided with a very cool moist June and seriously reduced pollination. Our crop, although slightly affected, for the most part was looking excellent.
Following bud break, we had dry weather for the next 10 weeks; the only rain came mid-September.
Late summer fires in Oregon sadly created a lot of problems in the valley. On Labor Day, a strong windstorm whipped up an extinguished bonfire on a neighboring property that swept up a nearby canyon at 40 mph. It took four days to extinguish and required tankers of water air-dropped from planes.
Naturally, the smoke lingered for weeks afterwards and although our property came away without fire damage, we were concerned about its effect on the grapes. Laboratory testing by Oregon State University revealed minimal results and I think our high elevation was again a saving factor. The heavy smoke settled in the valley below us. While many grape growers lost their crops, there does not seem to be any impact on our wines and for this we are very fortunate.
Just one month ago we were picking our largest harvest ever; 12 tons of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. We left roughly 5 tons on the vines. Grape vines take roughly 5 years to fully mature, although they will continue to increase crop loads over and above what most winemakers desire for quality fruit. Our plants have finally reached that point; we have more than we need and we can sell grapes to other wineries.
This harvest we happily concluded our first sale of four tons of Pommard and Dijon Pinot Noir to a local winemaker who specializes is making sparkling wines. As it is our ambition to create our own sparkling wine one day, our still White Pinot “Blanc de Noirs” being the first step in this process, we are greatly looking forward to tasting the results.
The most noteworthy Success of this season is the harvesting of grapes from every block of both our vineyards – all six blocks, including our first harvest of Pinot Gris, and the first grapes from Pinot Noir clones Précoce and Dijon 115.
Down at the winery, all 9 tons of fruit have fermented and are in their respective barrels creating magic.
We are excited to be making our first small-lot Pinot Gris – roughly 75 cases. Thanks to our netting strategy, the berries came to perfect ripeness and the resulting wine is a warm gold color. We can’t wait to taste it in another month and give a full report.
Another new 2020 wine for us is our single-clone Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Précoce. Also known as Pinot Madeleine, or Frühburgunder – by growers in the Ahr Valley, Germany – Précoce is believed to be a spontaneous mutation of Pinot Noir rather than a clone of such. This extremely unusual early ripening varietal gave us significant yields this year permitting the production a deeply flavored wine with a small amount (25%) of whole cluster to add depth and acidity. A Limited Edition of Three Feathers Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Précoce will be available next year.
We have been very fortunate to survive several close calls this year. As the years pass it becomes increasing apparent that tending a Vineyard every season is different; there are new challenges, new achievements and the persistent learning curve propelling us forward to find new solutions. The best part is that we learn from our mistakes and get to start afresh every year.
We extend heartfelt thanks to Scott, David, Vitis Terra, Olmedo and crew, Dan, Hattie, Laura, Sandra, Denis, Chris, Bronwen, Nina, Sarah… Three Feathers fans and clients for your help and support. We could not have done this without you.