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2019 Harvest Report: Winemaker Stephen Goff of Colene Clemens Vineyards

I just returned from five days in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I had the opportunity to observe the harvest first hand and speak with those bringing in the crop and making the wine to get their early observations on the 2019 vintage. I’ll have an overview of the harvest in my next blog, along with some buying tips for wines I tasted during my trip. Today, I’m focusing on the time I spent with Colene Clemens’ Winemaker Stephen Goff.

Goff, a Philadelphia native, has been making wine in the Willamette Valley since 2001. He was the Assistant Winemaker at the legendary Beaux Freres Vineyard for six vintages before joining Colene Clemens as Winemaker and Vineyard Manager in 2008. Goff has overseen tremendous growth at Colene Clemens and witnessed the growth and development of the Willamette region during an incredible decade of expansion and success.

The 2019 vintage provided many challenges for wineries. The temperatures during traditional harvest times were much cooler than normal, meaning some grapes were struggling to achieve ripeness. Perhaps more importantly, Goff and his colleagues were dodging rain during the harvest. Rain is perhaps the most dreaded challenge mother nature can present Winemakers at harvest time, especially for those growing the delicate and thin-skinned Pinot Noir grape. A heavy rainstorm right before or during picking can partially damage or completely destroy an entire crop.

By the time we got to Colene Clemens Vineyards the morning of October 2nd, they had just completed their 2019 harvest. Stephen Goff seemed incredibly relieved that all the fruit was in and genuinely excited at the prospects for 2019 vintage. The decision to pick a little earlier than usual to avoid potential rain damage was not an easy one, but it appears to have paid off.

“I think 2019 is very promising for us. The fruit handled the rain over the last two weeks really well. We saw no significant rot or damage. We feel like we dodged a bullet a little bit.”

Goff’s decision to speed up the time line of the harvest may have saved Colene Clemens’ 2019 vintage. I heard several stories of grapes getting pelted by heavy rain storms right before or during harvest. I also met many nervous winemakers and vineyards managers waiting anxiously for their grapes to ripen, while hoping rain missed their vineyards.

“Our harvest all happened a little more quickly than we thought. We received three inches of rain in September (way above average) and the temperatures were much cooler. We decided to pick at a lower level of brix, somewhere in the 22-24 range, which means we’ll have alcohol levels around 13-13.5%. We are optimistic that these wines will show really well upon release and could improve significantly with cellaring.”

Goff’s work as Winemaker at Colene Clemens had garnered international attention and acclaim. His 2015 Dopp Creek Pinot Noir was named the #7 wine of the year on The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List in 2018. I tasted the 2017 vintage of Dopp Creek along with the 2015 Margo and Adriane Pinot Noir, all of which showed beautifully. These wines are either available in Ohio now or should be very soon. I highly recommend you pick some up and begin your own journey with Colene Clemens Vineyards.