Vintage 2014 at Bethel Heights Vineyard:
WARM, DRY, & BOUNTIFUL
The new wines have just gone into barrel at this point, so sweeping pronouncements about the vintage would certainly be premature. Here are some things we do know:
Temperatures were warmer than normal throughout the growing season. Budbreak was about 10 days earlier than normal. Bloom occurred in early June, like 2013, rather than the more “normal” late June bloom. First color came at the end of July, rather than the more normal mid to late August. 2014 will set the record for Heat Units in our 35 years at Bethel Heights, ranking right up there with 1992.
Vine fruitfulness and set were extraordinary this year, yielding a very large potential crop. We thinned most of our 100 acres at lag phase as usual, but we thinned more moderately than usual, and in some blocks we did not thin at all. Our thinking was that our usual more draconian crop removal would result in high sugars and green flavors, given the unusually warm weather from the beginning of the season. At harvest the crop was (not unexpectedly) abundant, with average yields across our acres at about 2.75 tons per acre.
Rainfall: After some serious rain during harvest in 2013, the late fall and early winter turned dry. We did get some good moisture in February and March, but rainfall was less than normal through the growing season. Total rainfall for the “water year” (October 2013 through September 2014) was about 10 inches below normal in our area, i.e. 30 inches in 2014 vs. normal 40 inches.
However, 2014 did not feel like a drought year. The big rain events last Fall and late Winter left the soil well charged with water for the growing season. Canopies were green and healthy until harvest, and we observed no berry shriveling. A generous rain event in early September enlivened the canopies but brought no disease. The fruit came to the winery in pristine condition.
Harvest began on September 12 at our Ingram Lane site (6 year old vines at lower elevation) and September 14 at Justice Vineyard and Bethel Heights Vineyard (15 to 35-year-old vines at higher elevations). Sugars at harvest were moderate to high even here in the Eola Hills, which is one of the cooler areas of the Valley, but in general acids were in good balance.
While prudence requires withholding judgment on the quality of the wines, they will, at the very least, be very good. One thing I can say for sure, 2014 will set a new record for tons harvested. 2013 surpassed 2012 by about 10% and 2014 will be considerably larger. Around the industry there is a common lament “there is no room at the inn.”
Reported by Ted Casteel, with input from Ben Casteel and Mimi Casteel
Bethel Heights Vineyard