Oregon winegrape producers optimistic

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon’s vineyard and winery operators are by nature an optimistic, glass-half-full bunch, and their assessment of the 2016 harvest is no exception.

The Oregon Wine Board’s annual harvest report said the fruit produced throughout the state was marked by “wonderful concentration and complexity with characteristic natural acidity” despite numerous quirks in the growing season.

An unusually warm spring produced a grape bud break two to four weeks earlier than normal, and a following hot spell condensed the flowering period and caused a smaller fruit set for most producers, wine board communications manager Michelle Kaufmann wrote.

Average conditions prevailed during the summer, causing smaller berry size but “a higher concentration of flavors,” according to the Nov. 8 report.

The 2016 vintage produced “practically immaculate fruit” with few disease or pest problems, according to the report. Yields statewide were a mix of higher and lower than average. Crop production was down slightly in the Willamette Valley but up in Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon, Kaufmann said.

The harvest report includes accounts from growers and winemakers throughout the state’s regions. In Eastern Oregon, viticulturist Jason Magnaghi of Figgins Family Wines described the vintage as one of the most interesting in his 16 years.

Bud break and bloom were two weeks early, he reported, but harvest played out at a “nice slow pace” that allowed workers to pick fruit at “perfect ripeness.”

“All indications point to a really exceptional vintage,” he concluded.

In the Willamette Valley, Cristom Vineyards owner Tom Gerrie said his 2016 harvest was smaller than the previous two years but close to his historical average of 2 tons per acre. Variable weather during flowering resulted in small berries and clusters that “lead to depth, intensity and concentration in the young wines,” he wrote for the wine board report.

The 2016 vintage “may be headed toward greatness,” he said.