Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Patricia Green on the 2007 Vintage in the Willamette Valley

"Of the eight vintages we have farmed, harvested and bottled here at Patricia Green Cellars this will likely be the most difficult one to WRITE about. Why? Well, it was far from a textbook vintage, no doubt many of you have seen an unusual number of “Oregon Pinot Noir Roses” on the market and maybe have experienced some less than thrilling Pinots from the vintage. It’s always easy to write that whatever you have to sell is the “best vintage ever” or the “best vintage since…” but there is a line you can cross where people simply don’t believe what you have to say if it runs to much counter to their actual experiences. There is no question that the 2007 harvest was tough. It rained and it rained more than just a little bit at times when we really don’t want it to rain at all. There were sleepless mornings when at 3:30 AM you lie there wondering why you ever put your life, beliefs and financial future in the hands of Mother Nature. The first 26 days of October (we finished picking on the 26th) were some of the most gut-wrenching and harrowing days we have spent deciding what to do and waiting to pick fruit that we have endured in a long, long time.

Okay, so that all does not sound so great, huh? The counter to all this is that we were mostly running ahead of a “normal” schedule when unsettling weather settled in so we had good sugars if not necessarily physiological ripeness fairly early on, the science and art of vineyard management is so much more advanced than it was 10 years ago it is almost not even possible to recount what things used to be like and what likely would have happened if 2007 had happened 10 years ago and we have learned through experience that you can wait weather out if you have taken care of your vineyards as well as possible and that there is some sunshine to be had at some point. And there was sunshine. Late October was actually beautiful in Oregon, far nicer than early October. We had windows of opportunity to pick when things had time to dry out and finish the last march toward perfect ripeness.

Did that mean everything was perfect? No, of course not. In 2006 we had the unprecedented experience of declassifying none of the wine in the cellar save for one barrel that had developed a problem due the barrel it was in. In 2007 we declassified about 6% of the cellar. That’s a pretty big chunk to take out of your label and sell off at a loss but we do what we have to do to ensure that wines that say Patricia Green Cellars on them come up to a level of quality that is fairly high.

What we began to see as the wines evolved in barrel after a long and cold winter (we have a passive cellar in the winter so you know what that means) was that we had extremely precise wines with more oomph to them than we imagined they would have. There is an extreme level of purity in these wines. We don’t mean that they are all crystal clean and one-dimensionally fruity by that statement. What we mean is that these wines have as great of a sense of the place that they are from as any wines we have ever produced here. For makers of Pinot Noir that are uniquely attached to place, hence all the many bottlings here, this is almost the best thing we can hope for. We want, for instance, Dundee Hill wines to taste like they are from the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge wines to taste like they are from Ribbon Ridge. We want Ana Vineyard to taste the way we feel Ana Vineyard tastes. We work hard in every vintage to do as much as possible to bring the unique attributes of each site to the forefront. This is why we use native yeast fermentations, don’t have extended macerations or fermentations, don’t use heavily toasted and aggressive barrels, etc. Sometimes though the vintage is so dominant that these subtle differences can be obscured or dumbed down. While the 2006 Pinot Noirs we made we find to be exceptional for their ripeness, sweetness, density and flavor we would not, in general, hold them up as the best examples of terroir we have ever produced. For whatever reason the 2007 vintage really exposes the nature of each site beautifully.

On top of that naked purity there is also the fact that these wines are very, very good. They remind us a lot aromatically of the beautifully scented and underrated 2001 wines but with acid and tannin structures that probably have not been seen in such conjunction since 1999. For newcomers to Oregon Pinot Noir or Pinot Noir in general these wines are likely to take you by surprise. Pretty much every vintage since 2001 has been robust and mostly full-bodied with lots of ripeness and sweetness being the resounding themes (with the exception of 2005 which was still pretty darned ripe but certainly not as flashy as the other surrounding vintages). These wines are much more demure, definitely more medium-bodied and absolutely lower in alcohol than wines from the previous five vintages here in Oregon. They are not light wines though. There is a ton of substance in all of these wines and some of them will eventually border on being quite powerful when all their disparate elements come together.

We are certainly proud of every wine we put out but these wines we are that much more proud of because it was not easy. 2006 was easy. 2007 was hard. It is hard to expend the time and effort late in the growing season to get out to each vineyard and make sure that every detail is being taken care of so that the fruit we get in is going to be of the highest quality possible. It is hard, very hard to wait and wait through one weather system after another to get to the point you want to with your fruit. It is hard to instruct pickers and winery workers to throw stuff out but you have to do that to ensure that what goes into fermenters is only the highest quality fruit. And, we guess, in a world of ever-increasing convention and invention it is hard to go the old, tried and tested way and not bring to bear every gizmo and gadget designed to concentrate, intensify and “make your wine better.” Hey, sometimes having to get through a challenge makes you better, tougher, smarter and more capable. The harvest of 2007 was a physical and mental challenge but the wines are gorgeous and we hope that you will appreciate them along with the effort that went into them."

Patty Green and Jim Anderson are well worth the making the time to see if you're anywhere in the northern Oregon area! Their web site is also worth checking out.


  1. Awesome post. And so on point from Patty Green. I predict that the '07s might be some cellar surprises in 5 - 10 years. Left one open for 3 days a week ago, and it drank the best on the third night.

  2. Thanks for the post! Good to hear on the longevity of the 07 vintage! It would seem with a lighter vintage the wines would fall apart more quickly. Interesting.