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Harvest season begins with sunny, warm weather

September 26, 2018

MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (AP) — Early signs of autumn in Yamhill County are crisp mornings, kids back in school, the first leaves hitting the ground and truckloads of grapes delivered from vineyard to winery.

The crush of 2018 is under way — and a relatively mild summer has translated to a mostly stress-free environment for the grapes.

“This is our first day picking some of the estate vineyards,” said Robert Brittan, who has racked up 45 vintages between Napa Valley and the Willamette Valley. He and his wife, Ellen, own Brittan Vineyards, which includes 30 planted acres on a hillside off Muddy Valley Road, visible from Highway 18.

This week, they were picking Chardonnay grapes, a white wine varietal that originated in the Burgundy region of France but is now harvested all over the world.

“We have lots of fruit coming in today,” said Ellen Brittan. “We have Chardonnay coming in from Brittan, and we have Winderlea bringing in fruit. There will be crushing, there will be sorting, there will be lots of activity.”

The Brittans’ winery is located in the Granary District in McMinnville, where they process their own fruit and grapes from other clients.

“I’m sitting out here on this absolutely stunningly beautiful day looking at perfect fruit,” Robert Brittan said. He said some of the vines looked “a little on the tired side” because of the drought, but the grapes otherwise look fine -- even “pretty.”

At Stoller Family Estates in Dayton, they started picking sparkling wine grapes on Sept. 4, and they’re nearly finished harvesting grapes for their rosé wines. Some Pinot Noir grapes were picked last weekend, and more will arrive for crushing in the coming weeks, according to Michelle Kaufmann, company spokeswoman.

Kaufmann said quantity ranged from average to a bit above average, and the quality of the grapes appears stellar.

“We have the ability to irrigate,” she noted. “We’ve been closely monitoring our vines all year, and we only had a couple of days in August where the vines were getting a little stressed from the heat.”

“We’re super excited,” she said. “2018 is looking like it’s going to be a phenomenal vintage.”

Yamhill County’s wine industry is the engine that drives production in the North Willamette Valley, which is itself the most productive region in the state. In 2017, more than 56,600 tons of wine grapes were harvested in the north valley, according to a recent study released by the Oregon Wine Board. That was up from 51,600 tons the previous year.

Most of that is Pinot Noir, although vineyard managers contacted this week said they’ve been focused on bringing in grapes for white wines so far.

“The last couple of weeks we got fruit from the Gorge and Southern Oregon,” said Katie Quinn of Newberg-based A to Z Wineworks, which sources grapes from more than 60 vineyards around Oregon. She said the bulk of Pinot hasn’t been picked yet.

“It’s pretty site-specific, but with the nice weather this week, I imagine they’ll have another busy weekend ahead of us.”

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Information from: Yamhill Valley News-Register, http://www.newsregister.com

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