Harvest season 'wines' down in West Linn
As harvest season comes to an end for vineyards across the Willamette Valley, a trio of West Linn wineries — Oswego Hills, Campbell Lane and Pete's Mountain Vineyard — reflected on this year's harvest.
Both Andy Parks of Campbell Lane and Mike Thayer, owner of Pete's Mountain Vineyard, noted that this year's harvest came a little earlier than usual.
By the start of October, Campbell Lane and Pete's Mountain Vineyard had already harvested all or most of their grapes.
"(The harvest season) is a lot of work but a lot of pleasure comes out of it, so (it's) all worth it," Parks said.
Patty Skinkis, an Oregon State University professor of viticulture, said the harvest came early for vineyards across the valley.
"It was a very early harvest so a lot of it was done well before the rain began, which makes everything easier," Skinkis said.
Despite this summer's record-setting heat, Thayer said this year's harvest was good, with the vineyard's pinot noir and chardonnay grapes producing more fruit than most years.
Overall, Parks said yields for Campbell Lane were slightly less than normal, but noted it wasn't due to the heat.
Both Parks and Thayer said the extreme heat was early enough in the season that it didn't impact the grapes.
"The real hot heat was well before the grapes were of any size, so that didn't really impact them as far as we could see," Parks said. "A few leaves were sunburnt but the vast majority were in fine condition."
Rather than the heat, Parks explained that the reason for Campbell Lane's below average yields was a spate of hard rain in June. The vineyard brought in about 65% to 70% of its typical harvest this year, he said.
Hard rain or hail when the grapes come into bloom disrupts their natural pollination, Parks explained. Rain or hail can damage the grape's stem, meaning the fruit won't mature like usual.
"There were pockets of heavy rain that we had up on our vineyard. The damage didn't happen throughout the vineyard, but the yields were impacted in different areas," Parks said. "A light or regular rainfall didn't impact the grapes, but certain areas got hit with what appeared to be heavier doses of rain."
Around the same time rain may have damaged vines at Campbell Lane, the cross-pollination of pinot gris grapes was disrupted at Pete's Mountain.
"Usually pinot gris is the highest yielding of the Oregon grapes we grow here," Thayer said.
According to Thayer, the vineyard brought in three tons of grapes per acre of pinot gris vines, about two or three tons less than the yearly average. Thayer said he's heard similar tales of low pinot gris yields from other winemakers in Oregon.
According to Skinkis, the strengths of yields are largely dependent on the sites where they were grown. Like Thayer and Parks, she also noted that rain during the bloom was an issue for vineyards across the valley.
In total, Campbell Lane brought in slightly more than 85 tons of grapes this year. Parks said Campbell Lane would use 14 tons for the winery's own products and sell the rest to other winemakers.
Oswego Hills Winery owner Jerry Marshall said across the vineyard, yields for grapes were about on par with the annual average. Like Parks and Thayer, he said the fruit did not seem to be affected by this summer's intense heat, though Marshall attributed that to the unique irrigation system at Oswego Hills.
At Pete's Mountain, the harvest of pinot noir and chardonnay was surprisingly good. Thayer said while the vineyard typically produces about three tons per acre of pinot noir grapes, this year yields were closer to three and a half tons per acre. The chardonnay harvest was equally robust, with yields about 15% to 20% higher than normal.
Though he couldn't say for sure why those harvests were better this year, Thayer posited it may be due to below average yields last year.
The vines only supported a small amount of fruit last year, so there was more stored energy in the vines and root structures, Thayer hypothesized.
Marshall was also pleased with the quality of grapes harvested at Oswego Hills this year.
"The fruit has never been any better," Marshall said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.