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Almost Time to Almost Begin Harvesting in Willamette Valley


Domaine Drouhin Vineyards
A look at the beautiful vineyards of Domaine Drouhin in 2007.

It is that time of year again, HARVEST. Different regions harvest at different times throughout the fall, and it is around this time that Oregon’s Willamette Valley typically begins the annual wine making process, but this year things are running a little bit behind.

What does this mean? Nothing yet. Things can change in an instant in Oregon, and all we can say so far is that this has been a cool year, things are behind schedule, and vineyard challenges have been minimal. As a fan of wines that highlight complexity instead of alcohol, I see this vintage as holding huge possibilities.

To get a better idea of what is happening up in the land of mediocre college sports and world class Pinot Noir, I asked three upstanding Willamette Valley wine professionals for their opinion on the developing vintage. Here is what they said:

Joe Dobbes
Joe Dobbes leading an educational session at the annual Pinot Camp event in Willamette Valley.

Joe Dobbes, Winemaker at Dobbes Family Estate/Wine By Joe

Dobbes says 2008 has the potential to be spectacular if the rain holds off. Usually he is seeing grapes come into the winery by now, and sees harvest being at least a week off. Temperatures are warm at the moment, though rain is in the forecast a few days off. Dobbes is a firm believer that slow ripening creates more complexity and depth, adding integrity to the fruit. This supports his belief in the potential of the 2008 vintage, as grapes are enjoying some extra hang time on the vine. Rot and mildew have not been concerns thus far, and the challenging 2007 vintage acted as a great primer should the 2008 vintage throw some last minute curve balls at the Willamette region.

David Millman, Managing Director at Domaine Drouhin Oregon

Millman says that the DDO vineyards are in tremendous shape, and right now they are just waiting for the flavors to develop. He says that picking is a couple of weeks behind a typical year, adding that unpredictability is just a part of making wine in the Willamette Valley, and stresses the importance of understanding the ripening characteristics of individual blocks within the vineyard. The big question Millman worries about isn’t if it is going to start raining, but rather when it will stop, with the ambitious clouds of northwestern Oregon capable of raining for days or weeks at a time. As for this vintage, everything is looking great, albeit behind schedule, and only time will tell how these last days and weeks influence the upcoming harvest.

Remy Drabkin
Remy Drabkin Pouring wine at a McMinnville Tasting.

Remy Drabkin, Winemaker at Remy Wines

Drabkin is happy with how this year has gone. She says vineyard challenges have been minimal, but the threat of rain and disease are always looming in Oregon. Regarding her winery’s fruit, sugar levels are getting to where she wants them, but the flavors have not fully developed, requiring more time on the vine for the fruit. Drabkin says it is going to be difficult for higher elevations to ripen their fruit, and alcohol levels should be lower throughout the Willamette Valley, similar to the challenging 2007 vintage. She remembers the rain that plagued the Willamette Valley last year around this time, making harvest a nervous time for everyone. On the other hand however, she feels that there are many talented wine makers in the area that have learned to work with the unpredictable vintages that comes with making wine in Oregon, so regardless of the situation, you can expect another vintage of outstanding Oregon wine.


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