First Peek at Pinot Noirs from the 2020 and 2021 Vintages
Unusual weather conditions in Oregon over the Labor Day weekend in 2020 led to multiple wildfires that
caused smoke-filled air quality over the entire Northwest region. Some pockets in the Willamette Valley were
spared but in general, the threat and presence of smoke taint caused many wineries not to bottle the 2020
vintage of Pinot Noir.
The 2021 vintage was complicated by drought conditions (one of the driest growing seasons on record) and
below-average winter precipitation. In late June a heat dome developed over the Pacific Northwest but the
growth stage of vines at this time was such that there was no serious damage to the developing grapes. The
remainder of the 2021 growing season was warmer than average and ended up the second warmest on record.
Overall, vintners were pleased with the quality of the vintage that had decent but not particularly large yields.
The worst fire season on record in California in 2020 led to burned vineyards and smoke-tainted wines but
some regions of California wine country were unaffected. Yields were down about 14 percent overall due to low
rainfall and many wineries chose not to bottle 2020 Pinot Noir wines because of smoke taint. Those sites where
harvest was completed before the fires had a successful vintage.
The 2021 vintage was marked by a moderate and consistent growing season in California. The ongoing
drought presented challenges and led to reduced yields, but many winemakers reported outstanding quality
and superb concentration in the fruit.