PORTLAND - Even with the triple digit temperatures over the weekend, crews at Willamette Valley Vineyards were pulling leaves to give their grape clusters even more sunshine.

That s a good sign that this year s vintage is right on track.

The vintage is looking awesome right now, said assistant winemaker Daniel Shepherd.

But Shepherd does admit the sun and heat has had some effect on the grapes.

It just literally sunburns the outside of the skins. Once the temperature reaches over 100, it can actually shut down the grape and stop it from maturing, he explained. But luckily the hot spell didn't last long and most of the grapes escaped with no damage. Good news for Oregon wineries following two very challenging years.

In 2010 and 2011, cool temperatures and lots of rain caused everything from mold to a harvest that was more than a month late.

Harvest didn't happen until November, which is the latest time Oregon as ever really harvested, said Shepherd.

Now crews are emptying last year s barrels and getting them ready for what winemakers expect to be one of the best vintages in years.

If this weather continues out the way it iswe're looking at a wonderful harvest, maybe another 2008 as long as those rains stay out, said Shepherd.

In 2008, winemakers benefited from a long dry summer and ended up with a naturally bold and flavorful pinot noir.

And it s that quality that Shepherd believes draws wine enthusiasts from around the country to Oregon.

I think those that are trying them are getting excited. I know I was that s why I m out here, said Clarence Jones, visiting from Colorado Springs.

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