DeLille Cellars Blog
Tuesday, October 12th marked the last day of harvest at DeLille Cellars. “I think it’s going to be a really, really fantastic vintage,” said Jason Gorski, Director of Winemaking and Viticulture.
Warm weather, smaller than average berry size, lower than average crop loads, and incredible color and flavor are a few characteristics that differentiated this year’s harvest.
Grenache from Boushey Vineyard, Washington. July 2021. Photo Credit: Jason Gorski
2021 Harvest Brings Record Heat
“We did have one of the warmest vintages on record this year. The vines are able to adapt to that in a way - our growers did a great job of keeping canopies popped up. I actually saw less shrivel in 2021 than we saw in either 2013 or 2015,” Jason Gorski noted.
Climate researcher Greg Jones commented that the 2021 vintage in the Pacific Northwest leaned more toward the historically hot 2015 growing season than last year.
Our 2021 harvest would not have been successful without our amazing winemaking team and our interns this year.
2021 Harvest Team
“This year we had an absolutely incredible harvest crew - probably the best I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. They had a good sense of humor and a smile on their face no matter what happened. It makes it a lot easier when you have people along for the ride that enjoy that chaos,” said Jason Gorski.
Fast & Furious Timeline
One of the challenges of this years’ harvest was the condensed timeline.
Gorski said, “We normally have about three months to do harvest but this year we got everything done in about 10 weeks. It was fast and furious with the lower yields at a faster than average pace.”
Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyards, an important producer of Syrah used in our Doyenne, also commented “this has been the most chaotic, frantic harvest I have ever been involved with. Everything seems to have gotten ripe at once. We have been working almost around the clock” (Wine Searcher).
Looking to the Future
Partially through harvest, DeLille Cellars expanded production by adding several concrete eggs and new fermentors. “We’ve been wanting to work with concrete for a really long time at DeLille, but it’s not very cost-effective or space-efficient but with that additional space we put in a few concrete eggs,” reported Gorski. These eggs will be used for Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Roussanne.
Assistant Winemaker Mari Rossi checking a concrete egg fermenter
“Global logistics are a bit of a mess right now but we’ll have some more upright [tanks] showing up just as harvest ends. Unfortunately, we were hoping to fill those by now,” Gorski said. These tanks will hold (what will become) 2021 D2.
The team also commented on the stark color intensity of the 2021 vintage. While this doesn’t necessarily translate to anything specific, it was remarkable to see the deep, dark colors.
Jason Gorski summed up harvest by stating, “Every vintage is an opportunity to be great no matter how challenging it is and what the conditions give you. Our goal is to make nothing but world-class wine.”
Watch the full interview with Jason Gorski below.
On the 22nd of March, 2021, the DeLille winemaking team assembled to taste and evaluate a considerable number of wines from past vintages, with the primary goal of updating the aging chart. The obviously wonderful side effect, of course, is that we had the opportunity to taste some absolutely delicious older wines! The challenge for us as winemakers is to constantly improve, and that evolution is impossible without understanding the foundation of our style, and how that style has subtlety changed over time to keep pace with consistent improvement in the vineyard, with fine tuning in the cellar.
The actual tasting process involved several vertical tasting flights of several vintages of individual wines. The purpose of a vertical tasting is to isolate vintage variation as the most significant variable, and to better understand the evolution of the wines as they age in bottle. Although vertical flights can be tasted youngest to oldest, we elected to taste the older wines first, and started with Rhone varietals; the daunting number of wines on the table made it apparent that palate fatigue from accumulating tannin would come into play.
All the selected wines were turned upright several days prior to the tasting to let them settle and stored in one of our barrel rooms to ensure the temperature of each wine was consistent. Despite the volume of bottles and significant age, we only had a single bottle that suffered from a cork fault (an older vintage, the cork had lost its seal at some point). We pulled two bottles of each wine in preparation, so we were still able to evaluate the wine.
Each bottle was opened and immediately poured to eliminate the variable of exposure to oxygen. We had a Durand wine opener on hand in case we ran into a particularly delicate closure, but an Ah So proved to be capable enough for each bottle.
In terms of the evaluation of the individual wines, we all took copious notes on each wine within the vertical, and then openly debated the status of each wine on its individual aging trajectory. When a wine tastes best on this trajectory is subject to the opinion of every taster. For the sake of our aging chart, we use the following definitions:
HOLD wines exhibited only primary aromas and flavors - delicious to drink now, but certain to improve for some time.
DRINK/HOLD wines exhibited some secondary aromas and flavors associated with aging - time in the bottle has developed and improved the wines beyond their infancy, and further aging will continue to benefit the wine.
DRINK wines exhibited some tertiary aromas and flavors - drinking beautifully, and likely to continue to do so for several years, but likely at their very peak of enjoyment.
MATURE wines showed their age - individual bottles may be drinking well, but certainly should be consumed, as further aging will not improve their quality.
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