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Oregon Wine Outlook Said Promising

October 11, 1999

DUNDEE, Ore. (AP) _ After a shaky start, things are looking good this year for Oregon’s wine grape crop, and observers say it’s a pretty sight indeed.

Unblemished fruit hangs swollen on the vine, soaking up sunshine that started late but now is working overtime. Picking has begun in some regions.

``We had a miracle September,″ said Allen Holstein, vineyard manager for Argyle Winery. ``That saved our bacon.″

At the start of September, growers were worried. The season was late and hopes for warm, dry weather weren’t high. Vineyards bustled with workers thinning the grape clusters, so the fruit that remained on the vine would fully ripen.

Last year’s harvest was 14,700 tons. This year’s estimate is for 17,000 tons, and some predict it could be more.

Holstein said the yields would have been better yet had growers not thinned when they did, in expectation of a late harvest under cooler, wetter conditions.

Oregon has about 8,000 bearing acres of wine grapes and about 9,000 additional acres planted. The most widely grown varietal remains pinot noir with chardonnay No. 2, followed by pinot gris.

Brad Biehl, director of viticulture for King Estate Winery in Eugene, said, ``The fruit is spotlessly clean. Pests? Disease? There’s absolutely none. Zero. We’re set up for a really good year.″

Prices, particularly for pinot noir, are princely. Oregon’s premier wine grape commands anywhere from $1,450 to $2,000 or more a ton. The grape does especially well here, in France’s Burgundy district and on the California coast.

Biehl said Pinot gris has brought $1,250 a ton for the past two years. He estimated King Estate will harvest 600 tons of Pinot gris and 500 tons of pinot noir.

The Oregon Wine Advisory Board put the number of wineries in the state at 136 and vineyards at 383.

The growth even startles those steeped in the industry, such as Ed Hellman, Oregon State University district extension agent. He sees new names and labels popping up everywhere.

``There’re a lot of new ones going in and most existing vineyards are expanding,″ Hellman said. ``We’re still definitely in a growth phase, and if anything, it looks like it’s accelerating.″

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas farmers are expected to harvest a record 405.6 million pounds of sunflowers this fall, Kansas Agricultural Statistics says.

That would make this fall’s crop 52 percent bigger than last year.

In its monthly crop estimate, KAS reported Friday that Kansas growers planted 85,000 more acres into sunflowers this year, bringing the total harvested acreage to 260,000.

Sunflower yields are also expected to be up 2 percent from a year ago, with an anticipated average of 1,560 pounds per acre.