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'The weather has been so cold': Oregon wineries wait to assess mid-spring frost damage

The severe frost hit on April 14 and 15 as late-night and early morning temperatures plunged into the 20s throughout the Willamette Valley.
Credit: Cathy Cheney/Portland Business Journal

PORTLAND, Ore. — Willamette Valley winemakers and grape growers knew a mid-April frost was bad, but many said at the time they would have to wait a few weeks for growth-inspiring warm weather to truly assess the damage.

They’re still waiting.

“The weather has been so cold,” Laurent Montalieu, CEO at NW Wine Co., said this week. “So unfortunately, we’re still not sure exactly where we stand.”

But there’s little doubt the crop, coming on the heels of two low-yielding vintages, will be smaller than normal. For NW Wine Co., one of the state’s biggest producers, and really the wider Oregon industry — on the upswing for several years now — that will likely mean missed expansion opportunities. 

“Our demand is still very strong,” Montalieu said. “There are programs in place that are asking for more wine, and programs we want to start, but supply is going to be a challenge.”

RELATED: How Oregon wine can survive climate change

The severe frost hit on April 14 and 15 as late-night and early morning temperatures plunged into the 20s throughout the valley. It came as the vines were emerging from winter dormancy, what’s known as bud break, which brings the first green growth of the season.

Since then, the Willamette Valley wine world has been watching to see what, if anything, grows out of the damaged buds. Each bud contains three potential growing points, known as primary, secondary and tertiary buds, which are generally progressively less fruitful.

“What we are seeing is pretty encouraging,” Montalieu said. “We are seeing shoots that are coming out of the heads that are fruitful. But out of 15 buds, maybe six have pushed enough to see whether you have a cluster or not.”

Read the full story at the Portland Business Journal.

RELATED: Industry giant acquires high-end Oregon winery Lingua Franca

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