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Vinous Looks at Oregon’s 2013 Pinot Noirs

The Challenging 2013 Growing Season

October 22, 2015
by Josh Raynolds

Most of the 2013 growing season in Oregon looked like a virtual carbon copy of the superb, already legendary 2012 vintage. But Mother Nature changed her mind at the last minute, in this case at the very end of August, dumping an epic amount of rain that continued to fall into early October, dashing any hopes for a vintage even close to the quality of 2012.

The turn in the weather was a real heartbreaker for the industry because the growing season had gotten off to a highly auspicious start, with a moderate, dry winter followed by a severe heat spike (pushing temperatures up to almost 80 degrees) in the last week of March that caused budbreak to occur at the beginning of April. That’s unprecedented here (budbreak occurred in the third week of April in 2012 and during the first week of May in 2011, for comparison) and growers were confident that they might actually enjoy two consecutive superlative vintages, which, again, is a rarity in cooler wine regions like Oregon. The spring remained warm and dry and flowering began in the second week of June. The weather continued to cooperate, and spirits and expectations were running high for an anticipated early September harvest, which, we as now know, sadly wasn’t to be.

The steady rains through September and into October, and the excessive water that accumulated in the vineyards caused many berries, which at the time were almost or even fully ripe, to swell up and split open, bringing on rot, which the humid weather also encouraged. Many damaged grapes, in fact, actually began fermenting on the vine, with resulting acetic acid build-up (read: vinegar) that, needless to say, is about the last thing that winegrowers want to see. Given such conditions, growers had few options by mid-September; start picking then, and do it quickly, followed by a severe selection of the fruit on the sorting table, or try to make an equally severe selection in the vineyards and hope that the weather would stabilize and allow the remaining fruit to reach full maturity. Even then, dramatic culling of grapes in the winery would be a requirement, so there was no getting away from a lot of hard work and loss of crop.

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