Oregon Winemakers and Growers Report on 2014 Season

Get the scoop on the year's ideal growing season from the experts—and find out what it means for the wine to come.

By Allison Jones November 6, 2014

Old vines at Bethel Heights Vineyard

According to the Oregon Wine Board, the state's 2014 vintage "may be remembered as the vintage of a lifetime." With a record harvest coming in around two weeks earlier than previous years—thanks to dry, warm spring and summer weather with record-breaking overnight temperatures keeping the fat clusters happy—we're looking at some picture-perfect conditions for top-shelf wines. Here, winemakers and growers from around the state share their take on the killer season:

Willamette Valley

"Even though we spent considerable time and money thinning fruit in July and August, our overall estate crop load was 40 percent larger than 2013. It was as if Mother Nature just heaved grapes out of the bosom of the Earth! Never seen the likes of it in 25 years. The good news is that the wines are by and large lovely, ripe, rich, deeply concentrated and aromatic. Once we get past the shock of the investment required to bottle and package all this wine—and deal with the exigencies of where and how to sell it all—I’m sure we’ll look back at 2014 as a rare gift. Unlike so many Oregon vintages, it offered everything a winemaker could want… and, in some instances, almost too much so."—Doug Tunnell, Brick House Wine Company

"This is one of those rare vintages when you have high quality and high quantity simultaneously. The Pinot noirs are deeper in color and range from the low 13’s to lower 14’s in alcohol percent. I believe the consumer will love these wines as they will be similar to the 2009 vintage." – Joe Dobbes, Dobbes Family Estate 

"This year has been very unique—starting with a slightly early bud break, warm and dry conditions during the early spring growing season and on into a warm and dry summer gave us a perfect situation for an early harvest.  The wines are darkly fruited and quite concentrated.  We have some wines that have big tannins but the core of fruit is so sweet that they are balanced with moderate alcohol." – Lynn Penner-Ash, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

"Vine fruitfulness and set were extraordinary this year, yielding a very large potential crop. At harvest the crop was (not unexpectedly) abundant, with average yields across our acres at about 2.75 tons per acre. One thing I can say for sure, 2014 will set a new record for tons harvested. Around the industry there is a common lament 'there is no room at the inn.'"—Ted Casteel with input from Ben Casteel and Mimi Casteel, Bethel Heights Vineyard

Southern Oregon

"The quality of the fruit is excellent. With sugars coming early we chose to wait on some varieties because the flavors weren't there yet. This proved to be the right decision. The fruit we pulled had great balance and flavors. The yields were low for us due to winter damage experienced by most east side vineyards. We anticipate a good recovery for next year from good retraining and plants coming back."—Ruth Garvin, Cliff Creek Cellars

The 2014 vintage was hot and dry. Roseburg’s average daily temps were the highest ever. True, it was a hot year, but the absolute maximum temperatures of 2014 were considerably lower than normal. The vines tolerated almost daily 90 degree temps in the absence of heat waves very well and we actually used less irrigation than in previous cooler years. Coupling this with warmer nights had a profoundly positive physiological effect on our vines. The results; perfectly ripe, flavorful fruit and virtually no disease or predation certainly made 2014 a great vintage."—Earl Jones, Abacela

"The 2014 growing season has been incredibly beautiful, with perfect temperatures throughout harvest. It was a wonderful not to have to pick in the rain or rush to beat the weather. We did have some frost damage from December 2013 on the lower level of the vineyard, and will need to be replaced this next year. However, the big reds on the hill resulted in yields above average."—Jolee Wallace, Del Rio Vineyards

Columbia Gorge

"We had an unusual winter freeze event in December of 2013. The freeze was very specific to vineyards located in lower elevation areas or on the valley floor. I find it surprising that the yields were so high this year after that winter freeze event. It was not unusual in the 2014 growing season to see yields 10–25 percent higher than normal with great quality intact. I'm sure 2014 will be considered one of the best vintages of the decade!"—Lonnie Wright, The Pines 1852

"Bud break came early in the western side of the Gorge, just about two weeks earlier than a typical year. The final, increased yield was largely due to efforts to balance the vines to the early and prolonged heat of the vintage. Harvest weather was ideal. We were able to pick at a relaxed rate. Each block came off the vine at its optimum moment."—Robert Morus, Phelps Creek Vineyard

"We worried about a very dry, cold winter and then March was very wet and eased our drought concerns. The vintage started with warm degree days at bud break, near-record-breaking numbers. The weather remained nice and warm and dry and the degree days kept accumulating at a very rapid rate. By Aug. 1 we were well ahead of every year back to when I started recording in 2001 and that trend continues still today. Mother Nature was on our side."—Leigh Bartholomew, Dominio IV

Eastern Oregon

"I think the vintage’s ripe, flavorful wines will be very enticing for the consumer.  The conditions made it relatively easy to make good wines, with no worries about achieving ripeness, and the lack of frost risk allowed us to keep grapes on the vine as long as we wished."—Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery

"This vintage was warm and dry from bud break to harvest. Growing conditions were stable and pest and disease pressure was low. From start until finish, all major growing stages were 7-10 days ahead of the average. Winter was dry, but pre-bud break we had a significant amount of moisture that helped the vines get a healthy start. We saw perfect bloom weather that created fantastic fruit set. The crop looked phenomenal and I have received a lot of positive feedback from winemakers already. Even though sugars are high this year, we saw really great acid and pH levels in almost all of our varieties to balance the high sugars."—Sadie Drury, Seven Hills Vineyard /SeVein

"The 2014 vintage was a scorcher. All of the major milestone indicators came earlier than average and a week ahead of the 2013 vintage. Weather through bloom and set was perfect, which is evident in the yields. If our early indicators are any measure of quality, 2014 is another excellent vintage for the Walla Walla Valley." – Chad Johnson, Dusted Valley

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