Every year around this time I see posts on Facebook and email
updates from our local winemakers. Many of them are making regular
trips to Eastern Washington to harvest grapes and check the
conditions of their vineyard blocks to determine the best time to
pull the clusters from the vines.
I’ve always wanted to get a report from them about how harvest
is going and to hear their initial projections about the vintage,
but never want to bother them since I know they’re busy and running
on minimal sleep. This year I took a chance and sent an email to
the winemakers of Bainbridge Island (Amelia Wynn Winery, Eagle
Harbor Wine Company, Eleven Winery, Fletcher Bay Winery, Rolling
Bay Winery) and Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair to see if they’d
be interested in sending me email updates of how things are going
in the field.
I haven’t heard back from everyone, but a number of the
winemakers wrote back almost immediately — some with reports from
the field, others saying they would be sending me updates as
harvest went along. My plan is to compose periodic blog posts that
includes their reports from the field — either as a direct copy and
paste from what they sent me, or my summary of what they have to
I was surprised to hear that a number of white grapes have been
harvested and are already back on the peninsula fermenting. Matt
Albee, winemaker for Eleven Winery, said his Sauvignon Blanc and
Pinot Grigio grapes were about two weeks ahead of schedule this
Below is a list of the wineries I’ve heard back from and quick
summaries of how things are going. As you’ll see, Amelia Wynn
winemaker Paul Bianchi has supplied a great report from the field.
I’ve copied and pasted his emails so you can see the life of the
local winemaker around this time of year.
Amelia Wynn (Email from winemaker Paul Bianchi
sent Sept. 17):
Timing is everything at harvest and plans take shape over weeks.
When it’s time to pull the trigger the vintner puts the vineyard on
notice for an agreed upon harvest date.
The players are: vineyard owner, vineyard manager (if not the
owner), picking crew being paid by the pound, the custom crush
facility (if used) and most importantly the truck rental agency
because you need a big truck if you’re hauling more than 5,000
This Sunday (Sept. 15) in Walla Walla it was 95 degrees with 20
mph drying winds. Not a good day for grapes. So the green light was
given to pick on Tuesday (Sept. 16). Predicted light showers turned
out to be heavier than anticipated, complicating the day.
All grape bins were covered and because the crush schedule got
screwed up, our Merlot was to be destemmed around 11 p.m., making
for a very long day for the crush crew. We have to be at Artifex at
8 a.m. Wednesday (Sept. 18) to pick up the destemmed grapes and
then drive west to Prosser to press the Cab Franc and Viognier. The
latter I need to pick up at the Elerding vineyard.
The pick date for the Viognier was established last week and all
players were put in motion. The Cab Franc was given a green light
Sept. 16 to be picked on the same day as the Viognier. The
intent is to make a 500 mile truck rental, two nights on the road,
and use of commercial equipment as efficient as possible.
What has gone down toward the end of the 2013 harvest is: A
record-setting hot summer has skidded to a slow walk with a cooling
trend that is in fact a relief because the grape varieties
were rippening too close together as a result of the high
temperatures. With a cooling period the wineries can pace the
harvest dates so work in the winery is not chaotic.
When I return to the island tomorrow night (Sept. 18), I will
have the following grapes fermenting or preparing to ferment:
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab Franc Rose, Viognier and two
clones of Merlot from Walla Walla.
Here’s a summary of what winemaker Paul Bianchi’s days looked
- Monday: catching the 8:10 p.m. ferry and arriving in Prosser at
midnight, staying at the Best Western.
- In the morning dropping off bins for Cab Franc, which will be
picked and pressed on Wednesday (Sept. 18) for a Rosé. Also dropped
off two 275 gal juice totes where the cab franc will be pressed as
well as 4,000 lbs of Viognier.
- Drove on to Walla Walla where we will pick up 3 tons of Merlot
and have destemmed at Artifex, a custom crush facility.
- Sept. 18 back on the road to Prosser where we will pick up 2
tons of Viognier at Elerding vineyard and then to Kestral winery
where the Cab Franc and Viognier will be slowly pressed in a
Eleven Winery (Email summary from winemaker
Matt Albee, sent Sept. 16):
I have Sauv Blanc and Pinot Grigio fermenting, and am leaving
tonight (Sept. 16) to pick Viognier tomorrow (Sept. 17);
Roussanne/Marsanne and Syrah on Thursday (Sept. 19).
The very hot summer perhaps favors later-ripening varieties like
Cabs and Mourvedre, but so far everything is good quality!
We picked Sauvignon Blanc on Aug. 29, Pinot Grigio on Sept. 9
(originally scheduled for Sept. 4, but pushed back due to forecast
of rain, which ended up not hitting our vineyard). This week we
will see if last week’s extreme heat had much impact. There seems
to have been a lot of rain for September in Eastern WA, but my
sources have largely been spared (whew!).
Fletcher Bay Winery (Email from winemaker Jim
Wilford, sent Sept. 16):
My plans for harvest this year include: Tara Rouge ( Merlot,
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), a Walla Walla Cab Sauv, a Red
Moutain Zinfandel, a dry Rose, Semillion and a Pinot Grigio.
Pinot Grigio is being picked, everything else is still on the
Perennial Vintners (From winemaker Mike
The 2013 harvest is looking fantastic! It will be our largest
local harvest to date. The Frambelle is done fermenting, it’s
tasting superb already. We will be getting an excellent
harvest of Melon de Bourgogne, so mid-2014 we’ll have our signature
wine available again!
The vineyard is mostly done with for the year, at this point
we’re mostly just waiting for Mother Nature to finish the job of
ripening. We do still have to spray for Botrytis mold, but other
than that it’s just trying to catch up on weeding. It’s a
beautiful time to visit the vineyard as the grapes have gone
through veraison, meaning they ‘re ripening and turning
From Facebook: Mike said they harvested the Siegerrebe
Mosquito Fleet Winery (Email from winemaker
Brian Petersen, sent Sept. 16):
Crush has just begun for us here at MFW and we are excited! We
brought in a couple tons of our first white: A Viognier from
Elephant Mountain. The fruit is very nice, tremendous flavors and
We will only be producing around 100 cases of Viognier this
year. Partially fermented in stainless steel tank and partial
barrel fermentation, which we will ferment and age sur lie and go
through malolactic fermentation.
This Thursday (Sept. 19) we are bringing in Merlot from Double
Canyon Vineyard and on Saturday (Sept. 21) we will bring in our
first Malbec off Elephant Mountain as well. We are looking forward
to this too.
We have increased our Pepper Bridge Vineyard fruit and we are
now sourcing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from there as well. The
PB Merlot will be ready in about a week.
Then it’s Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional for
It will get very, very busy here shortly.
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