by Chris Russell, Contributor
As 2019 winds down, another outstanding vintage has come to a close at 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery. Harvest began on September 20 with Early Muscat and culminated November 5, with Malbec being picked last. The special terroir of the Rogue Valley means every year presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. While 2019 was not exempt from Mother Nature’s curveballs, we’re thrilled with the fruit we harvested this year and are looking forward to sharing the 2019 vintage wines when the time comes.
As you no doubt recall, 2018 brought dramatic wildfires to Oregon, leading to concerns about the impact of smoke. This summer was markedly different, thankfully, with substantially less acreage burned and essentially zero potential smoke impact in the vineyard. The absence of smoke allowed us to return to normal winemaking protocols without fear of extracting unwanted smoky character.
A Tough Decision
Except for a heat spike during June flowering that reduced the crop load by 20 percent, weather during the 2019 growing season was quite favorable. However, rain systems began to intrude as harvest got underway in late September, threatening to dampen the vineyard and deprive the vines of the late-season sunlight needed to complete the ripening process. This put us in a difficult position. Do we harvest quickly, avoiding moisture-related problems while sacrificing optimal ripeness? Or do we wait and hope better conditions prevail before some of the harvest is lost?
Ultimately, we decided to risk some of our harvest in the pursuit of complete physiological ripeness. Three weeks of clear skies banished the rain systems and, as a result, we were rewarded with exquisitely ripe Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as late-season Tempranillo and Malbec. Given the greatly extended hang time (time spent ripening on the vine), we’re eager to experience the wines that emerge from this extraordinary fruit!
Fermentation is underway, moving along steadily so far without issue. Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Chardonnay are all nearing the end of fermentation with Grenache, Malbec, and Tempranillo not far behind. We still have Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and the last of our Tempranillo on the skins. Similarly to past years, everything should be pressed off and in barrel around mid-December.
From there, each wine begins the long journey from the end of fermentation to maturity. In the spring, tasting trials will help us select the barrels for each of our different wines. Barrels make distinct contributions to a maturing wine’s aroma, flavor, and tannin structure, so tasting is a vital step in zeroing in on the best barrels for each wine. Later in the aging process, additional trials will tell us how the wines are developing and help us determine the unique qualities of each lot and which specific wines each lot is best-suited to become. When the wines are ready, they’ll move on to bottling and, eventually, release.
This is an exciting time for us. With the vineyard now mature, there is ever-increasing potential for luscious fruit with tremendous depth of flavor. This allows us to continue pushing the boundaries in our mission to put the best possible wines in the bottle. Our elegant, standout wines represent our vineyard’s special place in the Rogue Valley.
The 2019 vintage is on its way. There’s still a long road ahead, but we hope you’re as intrigued as we are to see how these wines develop and mature. We’ll be checking in periodically on the 2019 vintage, so if you’re not already subscribed to our newsletter, sign up to keep up-to-date on the latest! Do you have any questions about our vineyard, our wines, or the winemaking process? If so, please comment below or reach out to us directly via our Contact page. We’d love to hear from you!