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|Sunday, June 01, 2008|
Going for the Grape
More and more acreage around the state is converting to vineyards, and it’s changing the face of agriculture, land values and the environment.
By Jamie Hartford
Christie and Dick Reed’s home on Blue Chip Farm in Hood River used to be surrounded by eight acres of Gala apple trees. But the husband and wife, who were formerly partners in a local winery and purchased their own vineyard in 1998, envisioned another use for the east-facing slope where their orchard lay. Eight years ago, they cleared the trees and replaced them with rows of pinot noir grapes.
“It was a prudent financial decision at Blue Chip Farm to pull out the Gala apples because there was no way we could sell the apples profitably,” Christie Reed says.
The grapes are a different story. Last year, Oregon wine-grape growers received an average of $1,880 per ton for their harvests, according to the NASS report. Clive Kaiser, a professor with the Oregon State University extension service in Milton-Freewater, estimates that the return on each acre grown is around $5,000. Processed into wine, though, the value can increase five to 20 times.
Property values in prime grape-growing areas are climbing. In Yamhill County, which — at 5,550 acres — leads the state in vineyard acreage, the average value per plantable acre increased more than 45% from 2004 to 2006, according to Northwest Farm Credit Services.
That’s keeping Mike McLain, a broker with Albany-based vineyard real estate company McLain & Associates, busy.
Others, though, like the Reeds, are in the wine industry to turn a profit.
“We’re not doing this as hobbyists or just to put our name on a label,” Christie Reed says. “We’re trying to run it as a business.”
“We’ve seen a complete uplifting of Walla Walla,” he says. “Tourism is booming. People are coming in from all over the place. That’s been a major spinoff for the valley.”
But tourism also has its downsides. Besides dollars, tourists also bring traffic, and attempts to accommodate them bring development to land previously used for agriculture.
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