October 18, 2008

Willamette Valley harvest

The pinot noir harvest is in full swing here in the Willamette Valley. Things are looking terrific.

After a cold spring and relatively cool summer, the quality of this year's grape crop came down to October weather. The month began with some rain and below average temperatures. The past two weeks turned mostly dry and often sunny, cooler than average but with some nice sunlit afternoons that have helped push grapes to ripeness.

I've been helping out at local wineries for the past few years. In 2005, all the grapes were in by October 12 where I was working. In 2006, only some late harvest whites came in later than mid-October. Last year, everything was in by October 14.

In 2008, grapes didn't start coming in for the most part before this past week, and that's true for most pinot noir makers all over the area. It's not often that we have a mid-October and later harvest. This weekend is probably the peak of harvest, with rain slated for Monday. Some vineyards will hang on though, needing some more days to really get ripe.

So far the fruit I've seen looks great. Nice flavors, moderate and slightly higher sugars, with bright acids that make the fruit taste a bit more tart than the sugars indicate. That's ideal stuff for great pinot noir. Plenty of ripeness, but not too much, with good acidity to give freshness and length to the wines.

For my homemade wine, things are also looking great. My grape source backed out on my last weekend suddenly. Happily, I've found another source that's more attractive and, best yet, I'm getting the fruit today. I'm ready to make some of my own wine.

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