Rainfall didn't dampen Oregon grape harvest

The 2013 wine-grape harvest in Southern and Eastern Oregon could be 10 to 20 percent larger than 2012ís record harvest.file photo

A record weekend rainfall in late September raised eyebrows and a few concerns. Nonetheless, Oregon winegrowers say they are optimistic the 2013 harvest will produce quality vino.

To the outside world, the September rain didn't bode well for Oregon's harvest, but growers who have lived in Oregon for any period of time understand rain is a fact of life.

"There were people outside the Northwest reporting the September rain was devastating to Oregon growers," said Oregon Wine Board spokesperson Michelle Kaufmann. "We know how to handle that sort of rain."

The 2013 grape-growing season began warmer than usual with early bud break across most of the state's wine-growing regions, which led into a long, warm summer, bringing comparisons to the vintages of 2003 and 2006. An earlier than normal harvest began in the first week of September, with growers picking mostly white varietals.

However, the remnants of a typhoon blowing across the Pacific from Japan rammed the Oregon Coast and moved to inland valleys Sept. 28-29.

"When the rain subsided and warmer temperatures came back, there was a sigh of relief," Kaufmann said.

Managing potential rot and mildew issues put more pressure on picking decisions.

While Willamette Valley growers scrambled to get some varieties off the vine, Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon harvests were less affected by the rain. The Wine Board reported some growers in those regions were "downright giddy about the quality and size of their crops."

Early estimates indicate the 2013 harvest could be 10 to 20 percent larger than 2012's record harvest of more than 50,000 tons

The Umpqua Valley experienced its warmest vintage since 2001, making for very ripe fruit early with high sugars and trailing flavor. There, the crush is expected to be one the best ever in terms of quality and quantity.

"It's too early to speak to the quality of the vintage," Kaufmann said. "We won't know that until it's in the barrel."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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