Vineyards in winter are still very much alive. The vines are growing below ground and careful pruning and care ensures the highest quality of grape the next year. Winter is Willamette Valley wine cellar season as well. Wines are developing their flavors slowly across the season, and staff make sure the environment is kept perfect. Holiday events and tastings help bring the best winter wines to the fore, the kind that warm you and fill you with comfort.
What happens to the vines?
By winter, vines have had their grape bunches picked. Their leaves fall and the trunks and canes of the vine remain. Growth above the ground ceases for the winter. Underneath the ground, vines expand their root systems. These grow and grow, extending their ability to soak up nutrients from the soil.
The vines store carbohydrates in their trunks. They use these to grow new shoots and leaves come spring. To help the vines along, vineyard workers prune the vines. This helps the vines direct their stored energy into the most desirable shoots. This is a major part of what determines the quality of the grape.
How are vines protected?
Vines will also be protected from harsh weather. Earth, straw, heaters, and other materials are used to help the vines survive winter and to protect against erosion. Vineyards in winter that need to be reinvigorated may be planted with a cover crop. This can help prevent erosion. Mowing and mulching it in warmer weather can help return nutrients to the soil.
What is Willamette Valley wine cellar season?
Wine life is a cycle. Even if the vines are slowing their growth and the grapes have been picked, work hasn't stopped during the winter. Wines are aging in the cellars, which have to be maintained at specific environmental conditions.
Wines created from the recent harvest will be found in barrels and tanks. The malolactic fermentation is a secondary stage where many wines (all reds and some whites) develop a smoother texture. Wines being aged in oak are bringing their flavors together more closely with earthy qualities and oak aromas.
It's not until February and March that earlier vintages will come out of their barrels. This is when wines are ready for bottling, and when the newest wines are ready for tasting.
Are there winter tastings?
Wineries will have winter-themed tastings and holiday events by the bushel, so the front end staff is still working hard in fall and winter even after the harvest. Wine makes for an excellent gift that everybody likes, and tasting is the best way to ensure that gift is perfect. Who says holiday shopping is a chore?