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A Cluster of Pinot grapes at Shea Vineyard, August 9, 2005
See a tour of Shea Vineyard HERE

Oregon Harvest 2005
Mid-Harvest Report
October 20, 2005
thanks to Oregon Wine Board for info

Oregon’s 2005 wine harvest is described as good to excellent by vineyard owners and winemakers across the state. Increased crop levels and ripeness profiles indicate favorable flavor structure and higher acidity than in past years. In Southern Oregon, particularly, perfect weather may reult in their highest quality harvest ever.

"If the rain holds off and temperatures rise, the result will be a good balance of fruit ripeness and sugar levels, potentially leading to lower alcohol levels, said Dr. Greg Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, OR.

“This has been an interesting year, with one of the driest winters and wettest springs on record,” Jones said. “The wet spring gave us more water in the ground but ultimately resulted in good vegetative growth. The down side was some of that rain came at the bloom period, resulting in shatter or poor set. Rain was more of an issue in higher elevations. We are now looking at the ripening profiles. Everything out there should ripen but it depends on elevation and the weather forecast.”

An increased yield is good news for Oregon’s wine industry, which has been experiencing an unprecented demand for Pinot noir and other varieties, in part due to the success of “Sideways.”

Lower alcohol levels, coupled with increased tonnage, could lead to an ideal Oregon vintage, says many of the state’s producers.

“This could end up being a magical harvest,” said Jim Bernau, owner of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Salem.

Rogue, Applegate and Illinois Valleys

 

In the Rogue Valley, Rob Wallace, owner of Del Rio Vineyards in Gold Hill, has harvested Pinot noir and Pinot gris.

“This is the best yield we’ve had since our beginning five years ago,” he said. “We are harvesting at 3 ½ and 4 tons for these varieties and expect the remaining varieties will start to be harvested within one week. The fruit looks to be in great shape.”

Anne Root at EdenVale Winery in Medford brought in Pinot gris and a small quantity of Merlot last weekend. Root doesn’t own or operate any vineyards but purchases grapes from growers throughout the Rogue, Illinois and Applegate Valleys, giving her a unique perspective on the varying conditions throughout Southern Oregon.

At EdenVale, yield is fairly low compared to last year, Root said. “The really cold and wet spring contributed to this.”

Chris Martin of Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, agrees. Martin recently harvested Chardonnay, a small lot of Viognier and Tempranillo, which will be used to produce a port-style wine. Martin said his Chardonnay crop was “shockingly low” this year.

“The frost we received in the spring set back our crop level,” he said. “The bundles we did have were stunted in size. The vigorous growth in July and August was not enough to make up for the wet spring. So we have small clusters but the chemistry is good – we have a nice flavor profile. I’ll take quality over quantity anyday.”

His signature Zinfandel, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet franc will not be ready until the last two weeks of the month.

“This of course makes us worry about the potential for hard frost,” Martin said. “But challenging years in the vineyard allow the best winemakers to shine.”

Umpqua Valley Update

 

“The Northern part of the Umpqua Valley seems to be ripening earlier than the Southern part of the Valley,” said Terry Brandborg, owner of Brandborg Vineyard & Winery in Elkton.

Brandborg is expecting normal yields in his vineyard and from the vineyards from which he sources grapes. The recent rains have not seemed to affect harvest drastically.

“The growers we work with say the rain has had little effect,” he said. “We’ve had up to one inch in the last few days but the soils are fairly well drained.”

Brandborg has already barreled some Baco noir and has brought in some Pinot noir from higher elevation sites. He is now picking Gewurztraminer and Pinot noir from his own vineyard in Elkton.

“Grapes are achieving good ripeness with not too high brix levels,” Brandborg said. “We have lower alcohol and brighter acids.”

Wayne Parker, who owns Melrose Vineyards in Roseburg, says that his 150-acre vineyard is drying out and that he is right on schedule for picking. He has already harvested Baco noir, Tempranillo and Dolcetto and is set to pick Pinot noir this week.

“Our early varieties have extreme fruit flavors,” he said.

South Willamette Valley

 

Alan Mitchell of Territorial Vineyards is one-third of the way through harvest, having brought in Pinot noir and Pinot gris. He estimates that Riesling and Chardonnay will be ready by middle of the month.

“We will have spectacular quality, similar to the 2004 vintage,” Mitchell said. “We are seeing good flavors. Pinot noir will shine this year. The lots we have in are perfect and show good fruit balance and chemistry. The stronger acids we’re seeing will make for more interesting wines.”

Mitchell experienced more favorable weather at bloom than others in the South Willamette Valley, which resulted in a thinning of the crop to an optimal yield level.

Mary Olson, owner of Airlie Winery, has harvested Marechal foch and is now testing other grape varieties at various vineyard sites. Olson is expecting some Pinot gris to come in later this week and perhaps Pinot noir next week.


Airlie's Mary Olson
 

“We’re seeing a more traditional picking schedule this year,” she said. “Our yields are slightly lower than last year, although two vineyard sites we source from seem higher.”

The reason for lower yields? “The anticipation last winter that we would be experiencing this huge drought caused us to prune back severely,” she said.

Mitchell is still not sure of the impact of the recent precipitation and whether the grapes will absorb the water or if the cover crops will take in that water.

“You have to have the courage to wait a little,” says Olson. “The flavors are coming right along but they still need time.”

North Willamette Valley

 

Moderate temperatures in September helped increase acidity levels for many vineyard sties in the North Willamette Valley (see attached heat accumulation graph). Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem, who monitors Stoller Vineyards, reported an average high of 75.3 degrees F and average low of 49.2 degrees F in September. However, the 1.6 inches of rain the Valley received from September 30 through October 2nd and cool weather halted picking. In 2004, the average September high at Stoller Vineyards was 74.3 degrees F with an average low of 51.8 degrees F. Average rainfall was 1.82 inches, according to Peterson-Nedry.

“By this date last year, we had already picked over 205 tons of fruit or 82% of the total cropload, beginning September 12th,” Peterson-Nedry reported in his harvest page yesterday. “So far, we have only picked 11% of forecast tonnage.”

Kevin Chambers, owner of Resonance Vineyard in Carlton, was able to harvest 10 to 15 percent of his total yield before last week’s rain set in.

“The early picks were profoundly ripe but showed great acidity levels,” Chambers said. “If the current forecast holds, I think we will be 70 percent complete within 10 days.”

Peterson-Nedry estimates “gentle final ripening and full harvest over the next two weeks.”

Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards says he believes this to be a normal picking year. He has been pleasantly surprised with his crop level and the quality.

“We thought we’d come in considerably low but that hasn’t been the case,” Bernau said. “The flavors are far advanced relative to prior years, due to set. In past years, we have had to wait for flavors to catch up with the sugar.”

 

Scott Shull of Raptor Ridge Winery in Scholls agrees with Bernau. Shull sources fruit from a number of vineyards sites throughout the valley.

“This is much more classic Oregon viticulture,” Shull said. “If you look back to the trends in the past 30 years, we’re pretty much on schedule. Those who kept up with canopy management in the summer will benefit greatly. It’s a classic juggling and picking when you can.”

Shull is reporting a favorable yield, with more than 2 tons per acre for Pinot noir and Pinot gris. The younger vineyards Shull works with ripened early, so he was able to harvest those before the fall showers set in.

“It’s too early to declare victory but it’s looking good,” he said. “We’re predicting that a great deal of fruit will move in the next few days.”

 

Russ Raney of Evesham Wood
filling his press with Pinot grapes, October 16, 2005

Contrary to others, who suggest a warming trend will help ripen what’s left on the vine, Bernau would like to see fairly cool dry conditions with a little sun.

“We’re worried that heat could bring in botrytis,” he said.

Shull reports that in the vineyards he has been monitoring, he has seen only spots of botrytis.

“There’s no major bloom, which is a testament to great viticulture practices,” he said.

Another worry is birds. Chambers is experiencing bird pressure due to the late start of harvest. “The weather to the north of us has been bad, forcing the birds to migrate down.”

Jim Thomas of Eola Springs Vineyard harvested his early Muscat on September 29 due to early ripening. Thomas sells to five wineries in the state. “Even though the yield was low, this was the nicest crop we’ve had,” he said. Pinot gris and Pinot noir will be ready within one week.

Thomas’ other varieties are up considerably from last year.

Chambers estimates that he too will be slightly up in his crop level from 2004.

“I think we’ll see some nicely balanced wines without a lot of intervention on the part of winemakers.”

Columbia Gorge/Columbia Valley

Rich Cushman of Viento Wines is about a week away from picking Pinot noir from the Wy’east Vineyard in Hood River.

“The fruit is looking really nice,” he said. “There is a little more acid this year than in the past and we’re not going to be overblown by the alcohol.” The same holds true for his Riesling, which is about two weeks away.

At Cathedral Ridge Winery, Rob Bell reports that fruit has come in from the Dalles, but that his vineyard site in Hood River is still about a week out from being ready. Crop levels are down slightly for Bell due to a mildew problem early on that reduced yields. But Bell maintains the loss was minimal and that mildew is not currently a problem.

Walla Walla Valley

In Walla Walla, Casey McClellan of Seven Hills Winery reports that he is about halfway through harvest. Nearly all of his Merlot is in, two-thirds of his Cabernet sauvignon is in and one-fourth of his Syrah has been harvested.

“We’re looking at high brix with fairly strong acidity,” McClellan said. “This could be the nicest vintage since 1999.”


 

If you'd like to read about the bottling of the 2004 Shea Wine Cellars wines, try

Shea Wine Cellars- Bottling the 2004 Vintage, From Barrel to Bottle to You

or take a tour of Shea Vineyards:

"A Tour of Shea Vineyards"