Harvest Approaches

By Wine Press Staff

With late summer days and the absence of precipitation over the last two months, growers are reporting they have largely caught up from a late spring start but are still projecting an October harvest target. Some regions may begin their harvest as early as the first week in October, but most won’t get under way until the middle of the month.

As the industry moves down the home stretch toward harvest, the short-term and long-term weather forecasts also appear to be cooperating with continued seasonal temperatures and precipitation increasing to normal patterns.

While growing-degree days trailed 2010 through July, they have exceeded last year in August and September, especially in the northern Willamette Valley. Precipitation has been lower than 2010 since the middle of July in all regions of the state.

Growers are reporting perhaps the largest yield since the early 2000s. This is largely attributed to good weather during flowering and set earlier in the summer.

“The generosity of fruit has left us with lots of opportunities,” said one vineyard manager in the process of thinning her vineyards to promote optimum ripeness. “This allows us to be a little picky and choosey. The fruit looks really beautiful. The vines are really healthy.”

A potential threat looming on the horizon is migrating birds, a particularly difficult problem in 2010 complicated by the lateness of the harvest. Armed with lessons from last year, growers are taking precautions to be prepared.

In Southern Oregon, the crop looks good and is about average in size. Other than the fact that the harvest remains late historically, the crop has experienced no damage due to weather. In hopes of gaining ripening horsepower, growers are doing their best to increase canopy size and height and maintain plant health later into the fall without risking the potential for freeze damage.

In the Columbia Gorge, color change is on par with 2010 as the weather has been even more favorable than in the Willamette Valley, with more sunny days and fewer clouds. The late summer heat has been an added bonus and set the stage for a strong harvest. Clusters and grapes are an average size.

Harvest is expected to start the first week in October with Merlot and Chardonnay from The Dalles and progress into Pinot Gris in Hood River and Underwood Mountain. The Pinot Noir harvest is expected about Oct. 15, comparable to 2010. Growers are also preparing for the potential for bird problems by installing netting.

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