Oregon experienced a relatively dry, cold winter and early spring followed by a mostly warmer and drier than normal May through September, with average to above average heat accumulations.
This points to good overall growth and ripening conditions for winegrapes, according to Dr. Greg Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, who monitors conditions throughout the state’s winegrowing regions.
With the harvest now in full swing, the Oregon Wine Board provided the following report…
The 2009 vintage cumulative growing degree day (GrDD) values for Roseburg (2,711), Medford (3,094) and Milton-Freewater (3,156) show a 7 to 15 percent increase through Sept. 22 vs. same period 2008, currently ahead of the last six growing seasons, and tracking the warm 2004 and 2006 vintages. For McMinnville (1,993), there is a 9 percent increase over last year at this time, but units are slightly below the six-year average.
Wide swings with both record high and record low maximum temperatures were observed statewide, but with little to no effect on plant growth or fruit quality, Jones said.
A July heat wave that brought several days of extreme temperatures produced some sunburned clusters, but higher crop levels allowed for removal of sun-affected berries.
Harvest has officially started in all regions, with the bulk of activity in the Willamette Valley expected to begin over the next few weeks for all varieties, including Pinot Noir.
In the Columbia Gorge, some whites are coming in, with Pinot Noir and other red varieties mostly still ripening on the vine.
In the Walla Walla Valley, nearly all whites are in and significant quantities of Merlot and Syrah are being picked.
In Southern Oregon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are starting to be harvested, and will continue over the next few weeks.
Bud break dates were near average to two weeks late depending on region and cultivar, while bloom and veraison occurred at near average dates, according to Jones.
“The current dry spell enables another long growing season, ideal for full, gradual flavor development across the state,” said Ted Farthing, executive director of the Oregon Wine Board. “Our boots are sometimes muddier this time of year, so cautious smiles prevail today amongst our growers and winemakers.”
The current short- to long-term forecasts call for continued above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall for October, according to Jones.
The outlook has the 2009 vintage coming in above average in terms of heat accumulation, allowing growers to harvest in very good conditions.