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Oregon wine industry eyes normal harvest
OWB Blog (Sep 11 2012)
By OWB Staff
Normal may not sound exciting, but after two yerars of "pins and needles" harvest experiences, Oregon's wine producing industry is relieved to be looking what it hopes will be a return to routine.
Both 2010 and 2011 produced touch and go experiences for the industry heading into the crucial autumn harvest season. In both years, the crop got of to a late start due to cool and wet weather early in the growing season. Both vintages, however, had silver linings as the 2010 harvest, while small, is expected to be one of the highest quality in recent memory. Last year's harvest, which was plagued by late September rains, was ultimately dubbed "the miracle harvest," producing a record yield of 41,500 tons of grapes.
Coming of a very warm August where growing degree days (GDD) were 2.0 to 3.0 degrees above normal across the state, warm and dry weather has continued into mid-September and the forecast is for more of the same. All four key regions of the state were tracking at or above normal GDD through the end of August, which translates to 13-23% above the same dates in 2010 and 2011, according to Gregory Jones of the Southern Oregon University Environmental Studies Department.
The forecast for September continues to trend toward temperatures being slightly above to slightly below normal in the western valleys of Oregon. September precipitation is forecast to be be below average over the Pacific Northwest. The current 90-day outlook has the odds tilting toward a dry fall with continued cool temperatures along the West Coast.
North Willamette -- GDD units are rivaling some of the warmest in years, warmer than any year since 2006. The clusters are small and in many cases are half the weight they were last year. They are loose in structure and have smaller berries with fewer seeds. With at least two more weeks of warm, dry weather on the horizon, producers are looking forward to good ripeness. Harvest is expected to being about Oct. 5.
Southern Oregon -- Producers are cautiously optimistic about the 2012 vintage. The Rogue Valley is looking at average yields in an earlier than average maturation cycle. The Applegate is seeing average maturity levels and average to below average yields. Measurements are tracking close to 2009 both in terms of yield and maturity. Poor weather during bloom affected set in some varieties, notably Merlot and Tempranillo. Harvest is expected to begin as early as next week.
Mid-Willamette -- Clusters are smaller than normal and loose. Veraison was on a leisurely course until Labor Day when the clusters seemed to darken overnight. Yields could be on the light side in some locations while ample in others. Heat over the next couple of weeks will be critical for the harvest. Harvest is expected to begin about Oct. 5.
Columbia Gorge -- Producers are expecting a normal year with harvest expected the middle two weeks of October. The weather is lending itself to long hang time this season. For Pinot noir, that's looking slightly above normal at two tons per acre. Overall the vintage looks excelelnt.
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