Speak with anyone in the Willamette Valley wine community, and you will likely encounter the rhetoric about what a devastating turn the 2020 vintage took. Amidst navigating the pandemic, the prospect of harvest acted as a beacon of sorts for those of us who felt estranged from the familial ties that attracted many to this field in the first place. Wine growers and makers alike all buzzed with the mingled tension and anticipation of the coming vintage. Under normal circumstances, September is a time when everyday worries and distractions of life fall to white noise in the back of our minds, and the anticipation of the first pick day pulses through our veins. Unbeknown to us, the fires would soon feel like a personal attack on the period of time we look forward to all year.
While we scrubbed the winery top to bottom, and kept a close eye on our fruit through ripening, the pain and heartache still loomed from the loss of our normal sense of community. Settled in the nooks of our tired bodies, we channelled this loss into energy for the upcoming season. The resilience that so many carried with them to make the best out of a year fraught with new and unexperienced fears acted as a shield to what was lurking around the corner. As the smoke peaked its head North and blanketed Dundee and Newberg, we watched from the winery, perched on Chehalem Mountain. The fire was another heavy blow to our community (just hanging on by a thread from the already difficult year), but it also acted as a reason for us to connect with one another – to ask the question that was on everyone’s minds: What do we do?
After reaching out to dear friends throughout the wine community and gaining perspective on the situation at hand, we hunkered down to listen to what the fruit and wine had to say. Rather than letting this dictate the direction of our harvest, or throwing in the towel, we braced for the fallout of this new challenge. We adjusted our winemaking practices to allow the smoke to have as little impact on our wine as possible, and we forged ahead through what was originally expected to be an excellent vintage. We said goodbye to punch downs and pumpovers, and gathered all of the restraint available to us.
While no one in the Willamette Valley can claim they have completely escaped the smoke from affecting them and their wines, 6 months later our little team gathered to see where we fell on this spectrum. We stood in front of our 14 barrels of rosé, born from the 2020 vintage, and experienced a quiet moment together. After painstakingly tasting through each barrel, we met one another’s eyes to confirm what we were hoping to find – a fresh, lively and beautiful wine displaying all things positive about the 2020 season. It is the human condition to store a long- winded list of all the things that have gone wrong over a difficult year – but what stood in our glass had the ability to tell a different story. Our rosé, carefully chosen from a parcel of vines that we wanted to save from the potential of smoke taint- is a stamp of all of the good things that occurred in the background of 2020. While rosé is not often spoken about within the context terroir, it is a huge component of the identity of the 2020 vintage and we are pleased to find a beautiful expression of both vintage and terroir in this wine. It holds the grace that we always hope to find in Dundee Hills fruit, and the balanced tension of a trying vintage.
We blended our 14 barrels of rosé into tank on Friday, April 23rd. It was a quiet day of winery work, with sunlight filtering through the lightly clouded sky and into the glass corridor outside our barrel rooms. Peace settled over us, as we knew we had produced something to be excited about, and proud of, from a vintage filled with turmoil. While we once again await the reopening of restaurants – we take solace in the knowledge that no matter what occurs around us, we have resilience and the ability to navigate trying times. Our 2020 rosé is the embodiment of this strength.