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A good grape harvest

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

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STATEWIDE  Despite a potentially devastating year for wine grape growing because of erratic weather, early word from Oregon vineyards is that the 2008 crop is shaping up to be better than expected.

“In the grape world we look pretty good, certainly better than the economy,” says Kevin Chambers, former director of the Oregon Wine Board and owner of Resonance Vineyard in Willamette Valley.

Unseasonable cold weather reaching into late spring delayed the growing cycle for grapes throughout Oregon and thus has delayed harvest. Chambers usually starts picking his grapes on Sept. 23, but this year he started on Oct. 1., a delay that left grapes vulnerable to damaging frost. Not since 1993 has Chambers waited so long to pick his grapes.

Michael Donovan, with the Southern Oregon Winery Association and managing director of the Roxyann Winery in Medford, says his group of 50 growers had hoped to exceed last year’s overall yield. But Donovan is predicting yields to be flat.

In 2007, Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties produced 6,442 tons of wine grapes, according to an Oregon Wine Board survey. Statewide 38,600 tons were produced, valued at more than $72 million. “It’s going to look a lot like last year,” says Hilary Berg, managing editor of the trade magazine Oregon Winepress.

The overall grape harvest may not increase, but state wine observers say the quality of the grapes will lead to some exceptional 2008 wines.  And the down economy brings some good news to the wine industry.  “When times are tough, alcohol sales go up,” Berg says.                      

JASON SHUFFLER


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