Oregon wine country sees earliest harvest ever

Earliest wine harvest on record in 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon’s wine harvest is over.  And even though the wine-making has just begun, this year’s harvest is already making big news.
 
It's the earliest harvest on record.

Harry Peterson-Nedry, founder of Chehalem Winery in Newberg, says this is the first time ever his winery finished harvesting before October.

Peterson-Nedry has been tracking yearly change in climate at his Newberg vineyard. He said the early harvest was due to a year of weather anomalies, starting with a warm winter, followed by a wet March and a very warm spring.

"From the beginning of the year we had heat when we normally don't have any heat whatsoever, and it just started things going," he said.

That early heat lead to an early bloom and a record early harvest.

"Never before have we begun harvesting in August, we did this year on August 30," he said.

It's a trend Peterson-Nedry expects will continue. Which raises the question: What does that mean for Oregon's premier wine, pinot noir, which does best in cooler climates?

According to Peterson-Nedry, this year it allowed wineries to pick all the grapes before the rain moved in which led to more disease-free grapes.

But a faster ripening grape can also produce a very different kind of wine.

"We get a little bit more sugar in the grape, we get a little more full bodied pinot noirs and a lot of people really like that," said Chehalem winemaker Wynne Peterson-Nedry.

Still, years like this make some winemakers wonder about the future, and whether Oregon's cool climate will stay cool.

"Whether or not in 20 years we have to start planting something other than pinot noir because the harvest keeps getting earlier and earlier and we keep getting warmer," Peterson-Nedry said. "That's another story."


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