Although we picked a small amount of fruit and made a token amount of wine in 2005, for all practical purposes, the 2006 vintage was our first commercial vintage. The 2006 Harvest took place on September 29th. We were fortunate that the conditions were nearly ideal. Utopia was not alone, in that most vineyards in the Willamette Valley enjoyed higher than normal yields. Even after thinning, reducing the total amount of fruit by thirty to forty percent, the Utopia vineyard still produced a whopping nine tons of ripe fruit, all of it exhibiting beautiful color and lovely aromatics. Just as in our modest 2005 harvest, all of the 2006 fruit came from the original four acre Estate planting of Dijon and Pommard clones. Even in its infancy, our entire vineyard was dry farmed by hand using organic farming methods.
The magnificent bounty of the 2006 harvest provided us with enough fruit to separate the different clones for the first time. We had the luxury of working with separate barrels of Pommard, Swan, and Wadensville clones, along with a blend of 667, 777, and 115. We were particularly fortunate to have an abundance of Pommard juice, so we added some of it back into the Dijon blend, creating an early marriage of these flavors in the small lot fermentation tanks. As we closed the book on the 2006 season, we looked ahead to the 2008 vintage, when our secondary planting of old vines would begin producing fruit. The Estate Vineyard, from 2008 on, will have eleven different clone and root stock combinations. These include heirloom clones from Archery Summit, Shea, and Calera’s Mt. Harlan vineyards which were bench grafted in the nursery and planted in the fall of 2005. This range of clones produces “maximum clonal diversity,” one important factor in the production of a more complex wine.
The 2006 Utopia Estate Pinot Noir was big and well structured upon release, and, over time, has proven to be a delicious, well balanced wine.
400 Cases Produced.
The 2007 vintage year began with warm weather and good flowering, but then became cool and cloudy in July and August with below average temperatures. The humidity was higher than normal for this time of year, creating mildew infection pressure on the vineyard. Our crews had to work very hard to keep the fruit clean and unspoiled.
As we made final preparations for harvest, we were faced with more cool temperatures. Near the end of September, meteorologists predicted heavy rains that were expected to continue for as long as ten days. Based on that forecast, we decided to take advantage of a break in the rain. Our harvest on Monday morning, October 1st produced 10 tons of very clean fruit. Fortunately, the Utopia Vineyard is on a warmer site than many of the surrounding vineyards. As a result, the fruit ripened a week or two earlier than most, which allowed us to harvest when we did.
586 Cases Produced
The 2008 growing season began with a very cool spring with late flowering which resulted in a 15% – 20% smaller than average crop yield. The cool spring was followed by a fabulously warm summer that allowed the fruit to “catch up” as it began to ripen. As fall approached, we were holding our breath and hoping for an Indian Summer to help the fruit ripen before harvest. Fortunately, October produced only light rains with plenty of warm days to fully ripen the fruit. This, combined with the additional “hang time” resulted in the production of our best fruit to date.
We harvested on October 15th. The 2008 harvest was worth celebrating because it featured the first fruit from our 2005 secondary planting (3rd leaf) comprised of heirloom clones from Archery Summit and Shea vineyards of Oregon, as well as the Calera vineyard of California. These cuttings were
taken from 50 year old vines from these well established vineyards. We’re very excited to incorporate them into our wine.
693 Cases Produced
Spring blossomed early in 2009, with splendid warmth that boosted the vines into an early bud break. Summer was consistently warm, with only occasional rain until the heat returned in July in earnest, registering record highs. Early August brought cooler weather, with some rain followed by sun. Labor Day produced a late summer heat wave that pushed temperatures back into the 90′s. The harvest began early in one part of the vineyard, as we hurried to deal with the heat and dehydration of the younger blocks. This small percentage of our harvest from the younger vines yielded pleasant wines with dark color and good acid. As a result, the 2009 vintage has the potential to become one of the finest yet from our relatively young vineyard.
As the growing season progressed, cooler weather returned along with blue skies which allowed for a longer “hang time” under ideal conditions for our older vines. The wines produced from these blocks are exceedingly dark and intense with vibrant aromas and flavors and good acidity. It was this fruit that was chosen for our first ever Estate Reserve bottling, which we call Paradise. It was a long harvest and the results can be tasted in the wines, which exhibit grace, striking balance, and softness. Smashing!
2010 was the coldest growing season since Utopia Vineyard was established in 2002. In fact, it was the coldest vintage on record in the Willamette Valley. Late vintages like 2010, however, can produce the most intriguing wines. We were blessed with a marvelously sunny and dry October which brought us back from what could have been a disaster to a harvest of joy!
In 2009, by late September, in the hottest vintage on record, we had already finished harvesting all of our Pinot Noir fruit. This coolest of years resulted in our latest harvest date yet, October 22nd. What’s slightly disturbing is the realization that we have averaged (at most) only two tons per acre, down 20 – 30 percent from previous vintages. It’s only slightly disturbing because the initial fruit samples have been truly exhilarating to taste. They exhibit dark color, bright fresh aromas of red and black cherries, and raspberries. In the end, this wine may prove to be the silver lining of the 2010 growing season.
850 Cases Produced
The 2011 Growing Season started even later than 2010 and for the next four months, the 2011 vintage looked like a disaster waiting to happen. The vines produced unusually large clusters and it didn’t look as if conditions would ever get warm enough to ripen them. It was, in the end, the latest vintage in Oregon history. We didn’t pick until October 28th at Utopia.
Although it was rainy in early October we were saved by an Indian Summer. We brought in our grapes under warm, sunny conditions and not only did the late fall weather save the vintage, but, it compared favorably with any vintage of the past 10 years, including 2008. Early press results are showing beautiful color, texture, elegance and depth in the wines and I am very excited about the potential of the 2011 vintage to be one of our best yet.
1,061 Cases Produced