Rogue Valley grape harvest underway

As I write this, it’s mid-September and the grape harvest in the Rogue Valley is already underway.

Randy Gold, long-time grower and owner of Pacific Crest Vineyard Services, reports that for the past two weeks his crews have been picking early-ripening varieties, including chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and tempranillo, adding, “Fruit has been beautiful. Things are actually moving quite quickly.”

Terry Sullivan, owner of Upper Five Vineyard in Talent, writes, “Harvest 2018 began Sept. 5 when we picked our sauvignon blanc, the exact same day as in 2017.” He says the fruit has exactly the qualities he looks for: low sugar (hence low alcohol), balanced acid, brown seeds and mature flavors.

“Our grape samples have shown a trend toward more acid this year than in previous years, which we love as we shoot for a balanced wine.” Sullivan has harvested some of his grenache to make rosé, while the part of the crop destined to be red wine will hang for a while. He will pick tempranillo and syrah in the interval between the early- and the late-harvest grenache.

“I expect all will be picked by mid-October, similar to ’17, but maybe 7 to 10 days behind on the reds,” he said. “This cooling trend has slowed things down, a good thing in our eyes.”

Craig Camp of Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley says his crews would begin picking zinfandel and tempranillo for rosé in the last week of September. He expects vermentino to be ready a week later, and marsanne and viognier to be ripe the week after that. It will be well into October before the red wine grapes will be harvested at Troon.

Eric Weisinger of Weisinger Family Winery has been bringing in white grapes and reds for rosé in vineyards at higher elevations south of Ashland. He expects to see fully ripe red wine grapes around the beginning of October, noting the harvest for most varieties in his vineyards is running about two weeks later than last year.

Also targeted for next month is the opening of the tasting house at Long Walk Vineyard. Kathy O’Leary, co-owner with husband, Tim, expects to be open to the public Oct. 11, after private events and an open house for Valley View Orchard’s existing customers. The tasting house, described in detail in an article by Mail Tribune business editor Greg Stiles earlier this summer, occupies a beautiful site on the crest of the hill overlooking orchards and vineyards. Incorporating repurposed building elements from several structures that had dotted the historic 50-acre farm, the tasting house honors the past while looking ahead with an elegant, modern vibe. Designed by Portland’s Laurence Ferar and Associates, specialists in winery architecture, it has a quiet simplicity that allows the character of the wood and metal components to take center stage.

Farming practices at Long Walk reflect the O’Learys’ commitment to stewardship of the land. Certified organic by Oregon Tilth, vines are strictly hand-tended. Long Walk’s old-world style Rhône varietals are made by Linda Donovan at Medford’s Pallet Wine Company with naturally occurring yeasts and without chemical additives typically used to thicken, color or influence a wine’s flavor and balance. While the brand has been around since its inaugural vintage in 2010, its limited annual production of only 1,500 cases and its lack of a dedicated tasting venue have kept it below the radar. O’Leary says that was also by design. The vineyard was planted in 2000 and nurtured alongside the orchards. This gradualist approach ensures that every phase of Long Walk’s development has been well integrated and thought-out.

Harvest at Long Walk, on the north side of Ashland, will begin with grenache and zinfandel, usually ready in the first or second week of October, followed by syrah. Bringing up the rear are mourvèdre, cinsaut and carignane, usually picked before Halloween, but in years past harvested as late as mid-November.

I’ll conclude with a footnote relating to a recent column on Herb Quady’s pioneering use of cans to package his award-winning Quady North GSM Rosé. An email response to the piece came from Robert Williams, Jr., assistant professor of marketing at the Sigmund Weis School of Business of Susquehanna University, a private institution in central Pennsylvania. Williams sent a press release providing highlights of his marketing study of wine in cans. The release states, “This is believed to be the first quantitative study on the wine-in-a-can packaging format, and concludes that this time around, wine-in-a-can is not a fad, rather it represents a significant new wine category that is finding a permanent positive place in the overall wine market.” Glad to hear it!

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