COMMENTARY

Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Harvest

By Hilary Berg, OWP Editor

Usually I write a bit about harvest in my October editor’s note. Not this year. The grapes weren’t ready then. And as I write this for November’s — today’s date is Oct. 19 — harvest has just barely begun. What the heck? What’s the story?

This month you will find three detailed harvest reports on the Willamette Valley, Columbia Gorge and Southern Oregon. Associate editor Karl Klooster and writers Stuart Watson and Janet Eastman, respectively, discovered winemakers and grapegrowers down on their knees praying — like wheat farmers in a hailstorm — that the rain stays away and the birds do the same.

A bit about the birds. Can anyone say ‘Hitchcock’?

I have never been so fearful of robins, starlings and the like, and never been so gung-ho on shotguns. In fact, I hate guns. But this year, the sound of a shotgun strangely pleased me.

Note to Audubon Society members: The guns are used to scare the birds, not kill them. I must say though that with as many birds as there were swarming our Yamhill vineyard for weeks, I aimed a couple times out of frustration. Lucky for them, I have terrible aim — just ask my high school softball coach; I mostly sat on the bench.

The birds were so bad that with a BOOMING air cannon — sorry to all our neighbors — two mechanized bird-call machines, as well as my car horn and barking dog, the birds remained undaunted. They’d fly into the nearest tree, wait two minutes and go back to snacking away at our already-thinned crop. Bad news.

The result is not pretty; our tonnage has been cut in half. Good news is the fruit that did survive is delicious; and word has it that the flavors are good almost everywhere.

With harvest so late, it’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is around the corner. But it is, and this year, everyone in the industry is counting blessings.

The weekend after Turkey Day is what Oregon wine country is all about: world-class wine, warm hospitality, stunning landscapes and gourmet food made from Oregon bounty.

Come join us Nov. 26–28, and bring your appetites — just be sure not to ask for bird; you may cause an unwanted ruckus — ‘trigger-happy’ is what they call it. 

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