DUNDEE, Ore. -- It may be slim pickings for Oregon wineries this year. We're not talking about the grapes, but the workers.
Some wineries worry that a lack of workers to pick grapes could put this year's harvest in jeopardy.
Because of this year's warm dry weather, vineyards are expecting an early harvest. Some may start picking grapes by mid-September, but the vineyards depend on seasonal migrant workers to do that work.
In fact, winery managers say those folks are vital to Oregon's multi-billion dollar wine industry.
This year, however, a lot of those workers are already on other jobs like fighting fires.
“Right now, the demand is for people to help with the forest fires and that’s where they go,” explained Leda Garside with Salud Services, a company that provides healthcare for seasonal vineyard workers.
In addition to fighting fires, many migrant workers are still picking blueberries, which had a bumper crop this year.
Allen Holstein, vineyard manager for Argyle Winery, believes the problem is even worse because there are now more vineyards competing for the workers.
“It’s just a matter of stepping up to the plate and being more competitive,” said Holstein.
Holstein says the good news is that because it will be an early harvest, it will likely be a longer one. So the vineyards can spread out the picking over weeks and get away with hiring fewer workers.