October 20, 2005
thanks to Oregon Wine Board for info
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
Wine Cellars- Bottling the 2004 Vintage, From Barrel to Bottle to You
or take a tour of Shea Vineyards:
"A Tour of Shea Vineyards"