2013 wine area grape harvest predictions

Summer 2013’s unseasonally warm weather means for many wineries, harvest started early.

“The weather has been very positive and is responsible for harvest starting two to three weeks earlier than recent years,” said Charles Humble of the Oregon Wine Board. “A long, warm growing season is leading to ripe grapes and flexibility in picking.”

For the Adelsheim Winery, picking is already underway.

“It’s been really nice so far with better than expected yields and the weather has been working out pretty nicely. There is not a lot of bird damage like we usually see,” said Chad Vargas, Adelsheim winery manager. “The crop reached ripeness because of late heat and all of us were caught off guard by how quickly the sugars developed in the fruit.”by: GARY ALLEN - The first step - A worker at an Adelsheim Vineyard near Newberg hurries through a patch of pinot noir grapes on Friday before rainy weather slowed the harvest.

To pick, Adelsheim looks for 22 or 23 brix — brix being a measurement of the sugar content in grapes.

“We evaluate based on how it looks. Usually when we harvest, the leaves start to turn like fall, but we started tasting samples, sugar was 22 to 23 brix, that’s about what we look for,” Vargas said. “Acidity has been nice too. We thought it would be low, but it seems to be around 3.4, so we are not too worried about low acidity this year.”

A to Z Wineworks winemaker Sam Tannahill said so far the harvest has been positive.

“It’s going tremendously well so far,” Tannahill said. “There’s great ripeness and it’s extremely healthy.”

He said they just started picking and expect to be done Oct. 5 or 6, after they wait out recent rain.

“But it’s still three weeks earlier than last year; it’s a good early solid year,” he said.

David Fish, owner of Fox Farm Vineyards said they expect to start harvesting Thursday or Friday.

“It’s all looking beautiful — the taste is really, really good — it’s just not 100 percent where we want them,” Fish said. “I suspect we will bring in absolutely ridiculous fruit in about a week.”

He added that the harvest is much earlier than last year, when it was complete by Oct. 23.

“My spidey sense is that (the crop) is at about 22 brix and that is right to make a really good wine, but we care about how they taste rather than the sugar content,” he said.

Vargas said the warm summer weather means he’s expecting another warm vintage, comparable to Adelsheim’s 2012 vintage.

“What this means for the winery is a good vintage to start people off, the 2012, but when we run out (due to last year’s low-yield harvest) we will have similar vintage to replace with,” he said.

This is ideal because the winery wouldn’t want to follow the 2012 vintage with a cold season vintage, because the tastes would be too different, he said.

Tannahill said although it’s early in the harvest to comment on flavor, he’s expecting a rich balance that runs the gamut of flavors.

“So far it looks like a complete vintage and a superlative year for chardonnay,” he said. “Chardonnay does great under heat. The flavor will be pure and clean. If we had to pick everything right now, we’d have a really great year.”

Vargas said the only issue he could see happening is potential rot for those who haven’t started harvesting due to a rainy several days followed by forecasted heat.

He said this may cause a labor pull, when everyone is looking to pick at the same time, but doesn’t think it will be too much of an issue.

“We do have some rot, but I wouldn’t consider it a problem at this point,” Tannahill said.

Despite the positive outlook from local wineries, Humble said it’s too soon to tell what the harvest will really look like.

“But we are all very optimistic,” he said.

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