Oregon Winemakers and Growers Report on 2015 Season

Get the scoop on the year’s hot, hot, hot growing season from the experts—and find out what it may mean for the wine to come.

By Katie Vaughan October 22, 2015

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Image: Allison Jones

This vintage was the hottest year in recorded history for Oregon, prompting huge, mold-free grape crops, and super early harvests—at least in the Willamette Valley. While it's still too early to tell exactly what will happen inside the bottle, we tapped some of Oregon’s most notable winemakers for their early report. Will 2015 be remembered as an epic harvest? Or a sad, sunburnt wash? Read on to find out. 

“You don't need to know the wine geek jargon to know what everyone living in Portland/Oregon already knows: this year has been warm. It is definitely a richer year like 2012 and 2014 but does not tend to be overripe like 2003 or 2009, as long as the winegrowers are attuned to picking at the optimum moment. How the vintage ranks when measured against the best in our recent history (2002, 2008, 2012) remains to be seen.”—Tony Soter, Soter Vineyards

The difference between 2014 and 2015: Last year was more Metallica: loud yet edgy. This year's vintage is more like Sabbath: makes your eyes roll back in your head.”—Barnaby Tuttle, Teutonic Wine Company

“Things look pretty darn good at this point. Don’t want to count the chickens until they are hatched but things look great on the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris front. I think the 2015 vintage will be remembered as the hottest on record, one of the biggest on record, and quite possibly a very good quality vintage as well!”Alex Sokol Blosser, Sokol Blosser

"Through our riesling-colored glasses, the 2015 harvest has been, and still is, generous. From early bloom to bud break, to the long hot days that allowed most winemakers the option of wearing flip flops in the cellar (not suggested!), 2015 has brought us a big harvest of ripe riesling and complex flavor. The biggest shock for me has been the size of the grape clusters: they're huge! Yet somehow they're not lacking in intensity. I mean how could they? The summer sun continues to snap at the heels of the fall chill that keeps our acids in check. All of this points to serious potential in the cellar. With 90% of our riesling in-house, the numbers are reminiscent of the warmest vintages in Austria & Germany."—John House, Ovum Wines  

“2015 feels to me like such a risky year to be a grower!  Nobody can predict exactly how a year will play out. The biggest thing I noticed from a tactile standpoint that was different about 2015 versus 2014 or 2012 or other recent warm vintages is, all of my fruit came in cold. So this tells me that the nights were cooler all harvest, and the days didn't have the intensity of former years.  What I am noticing is really gloriously expressive aromas on the wines.”—Brianne Day, Day Wines 

“The fact that we have an organically and Biodynamically farmed vineyard really worked to our benefit. Farming this way encourages greater root development and deeper roots than conventionally farmed grapes.  This allowed our vines to access adequate soil moisture throughout the growing season right up to harvest.  Even now most of our vines still look vibrant and green. I believe this helped us get through the hot periods of this summer without sunburned fruit or interruption of grape development.”—Rudy Marchesi, Montinore Estate Winery 

“I can only speak for the fermenters I’ve tasted of mine and my colleagues at Medici, but I’m really happy with the results thus far. Across the board, stylistically, I’ve noticed light-roast coffee and milk chocolate in early stages of dryness. It wouldn’t surprise me if this vintage closely mimics 2012 in that the wines are very approachable just a few weeks after bottling.”—Andy Young, St. Reginald Parish

“Overall, we’re disappointed in the quantity, but the quality is really there. We’re really proud of this vintage.  What was out there is great.”—Lonnie Wright, The Pines 1852 

“The grapes are very, very pleasantly surprising. The whites are going to be fun and forward and I’ve got a tank of Pinot Gris that’s the best I’ve tasted in my life.”—Rich Cushman, Viento Wines 

“We saw 112 degrees this summer, with a large number of days above 100. It doesn’t rain here [in Southern Oregon] much, only one and a half inches since the end of March; our vines wouldn’t make it through the year without irrigation. Mother Nature is a tough teacher; she gives you what she wants and you have to react to it.” — Earl Jones, Abacela Winery

“This will be a record year for the vineyards. The crop came early and it’s beautiful. Never have we harvested more fruit from our blocks and the quality of the fruit is excellent. The weather was perfect, the birds stayed away. There’s no mold, no mildew, no rotten berries; it’s clean fruit. Great wine comes from great grapes. 2015 will be a great vintage.”—Steve Anderson, Eola Hills Wine Cellars

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