Waiting on the weather

Local wineries are hoping to squeeze out a few more days of October sun for their fruit. Normally, most Rogue Valley wineries would be busy harvesting grapes from their vineyards, but after the wet and cloudy start to summer, winemakers are holding out for a few more days of sunshine this fall.

"It's looking a little scary," says Heather Hamlin, vineyard manager for Ledger David Cellars in Talent. "We'll see if our cab franc makes it. I'm not sure it's warm enough; thank God for tempranillo."

Explaining that tempranillo doesn't need as much sun as some other varietals, Hamlin says temperatures would need to be about 80 degrees every day for the next week or so for cab franc to get what it needs. Winery workers are looking to last harvest season for reference because this year also brings an odd, late harvest.

"We harvested last year after the second rain, and the cab franc made it," says Hamlin. Ledger David Cellars is planning on doing most of its harvest during the third week of October and into November.

At nearby StoneRiver Vineyard, owners Paul and Virginia Lange already have harvested their pinot gris but are giving the rest of their vineyard a little more time before gathering the grapes.

"It's close," says Virginia Lange. "We'll be ready to pick more when it warms up."

This week, Southern Oregon was moistened with a weather system that sprinkled rain all over the valley, which set harvest back even farther. Fortunately, it was a light rain that didn't totally drench the ground and cause grapes to burst from absorbing the water.

"Before the rain, we were probably a week to 10 days away from harvesting the pinot gris," says Dick Ellis, owner of Pebblestone Cellars in Phoenix. "We're looking at somewhere between the tenth or the fifteenth to start picking."

Ellis says he has to wait for the brix to come up a bit and explains that brix is just another measure for the sugar content translated into a percentage.

So if it's 10 brix, it's 10-percent sugar — it's a direct translation," says Ellis, "Each fruit is different. Pinot gris we like to harvest at 23 brix, viognier 24 and syrah we might go up to 24 to 25."

Pebblestone Cellars just released its 2010 Viognier last weekend but already won a gold medal over Labor Day weekend at A Taste of Harry & David and a silver medal at the Best of the Bioregion contest during the Wings and Wine Gala last month in Central Point.

"It's like our '09 Viognier. It's made dry and in all stainless steel with really pretty aromas and a really nice acid balance," says Ellis.

In Talent at Trium, owner Laura Lotspeich predicts it will be harvesting through November this year, just like 2010.

"We're testing again this week. Right now, the pinot gris and merlot have 21-percent sugar," says Lotspiech. "I'm hoping to gain another two or three brix, but it's not about numbers — it's about flavors."

Lotspeich explains that a lower sugar level can contribute to slightly lower alcohol, but the brix amount can only tell you so much. "You have to taste the fruit," says Lotspeich. "And that's what you should harvest on: flavor."

Trium is open every day through the end of October. After that, the winery will be open weekends only through December.

Irvine Vineyards in Ashland is about a week and a half away from harvest, says owner Doug Irvine. "Our sugar levels are at about 21 and a half. It's a good-looking crop. We're excited for it; we just need Mother Nature to cooperate."

Share This Story