The twelve local wineries that make up the Bear Creek Wine Trail are right in the middle of harvest as most look to the end of October to be finished bringing in the fruit that will no doubt transform into more award-winning wine for the southernmost wine trail in Oregon.
“This was a cooler growing season overall than most, however, the milder yet warm temperatures have really allowed the vines to put a lot of energy into ripening the grapes so development of flavors across varietals are tasting great,” said Heather Nenow winemaker at Belle Fiore.
Belle Fiore has harvested all their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as Verdeho and Muscat Canelli, according to Nenow. The Tempranillo and Teraldego are getting close and should be harvested in the next week or so. Syrah and Barbera are looking like they need a few more weeks and the Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot are still three-to-four weeks out.
Just down the road, Grizzly Peak Winery has harvested much of the same, the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay have all been harvested, leaving 12 more varietals to finish ripening.
“We expect to bring in about 45 tons this year of beautiful fruit. Grizzly Peak’s winemaker, Linda Donovan, already senses that this could be an exceptionally good year, and is excited by the fruit that’s coming in for the crush,” said Grizzly Peak co-owner Al Silbowitz.
This year’s harvest is a little earlier than most, but we experienced great growing conditions this summer.
“Here at Trium we harvested Pinot Gris last Wednesday with great flavors and Zinfandel and Tempranillo today,” said Trium co-owner Laura Lotspeich.” Beautiful, lush clusters of both. Great crop loads and really pretty fruit. We will pick Merlot next Wednesday and will keep rolling along with Grenache, more Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. We expect to be finished by the end of the second week in October.”
This being an early harvest, that leads to the birds not being as much of a problem as usual. Pat Flannery and Paula Brown of Dana Campbell Vineyards in Ashland agree.
“Harvest is great and not as stressful for us as it has been in past years,” said Flannery. “We have picked Viognier (3.45 tons); Verdejo (a new varietal for us – 2.25 tons) and just picked our Sauv Blanc today (9,78 tons). Later we will pick for our “Vionillo” Blend and that is Viognier and Tempranillo – small pick only about 2 tons. We have Tempranillo scheduled for September 28. That leaves us with Malbec, Tannat (new this year), Mourvedre and Carmenere – likely picked in that order in mid-October.”
“We had a little bird damage on the Verdejo but did not net, so expected a little. We net all of our reds but have not had to net the whites. We have some awesome fruit still on the vine as we only pick what we use or sell but it isn’t much. It will be a great treat for the birds at the end of the season.”
Over at DANCIN Vineyards in Jacksonville, they have already harvested most of their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
“The harvest period (number of days to bring in all of the fruit) has far exceeded last season: 14 days in 2015 versus nearly a month in 2016,” said DANCIN co-owner Dan Marca.
“Everything was netted by August 15. Bird pressure has been negligible this year. The cooler weather has enabled the fruit to ripen slowly, which provides amazing flavors in the wines. I think both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will be amazing in 2016!”
Weisinger’s Family Winery in Ashland is enjoying this harvest season as well, as picking decisions have been based on ripeness and not mother nature.
“Overall no weather pressure whatsoever,” said owner Eric Weisinger. “Birds are not as bad as they have been in past years. We will probably complete harvest by the 3rd week in October. So far, Malbec, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo are looking great!”
Lena Varner co-owner of Ledger David Cellars agrees that they are seeing great flavor development, while acids have been maintained due to the cooler evenings.
“Some of our varietals are just finishing going through veraison (Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), thus we won’t be harvesting those until the third or fourth week of October,” said Varner.
“It’s looking very good for our Bordeaux varietals being able to develop really complex flavors with extended hang-time due to early budbreak and projected late fall harvest date. It looks like the bear that visits us annually, has enjoyed a bit of Viognier this year. Fortunately, she is typically polite and leaves the vines intact.”
At a higher elevation in Medford, RoxyAnn Winery is already 40% done with their harvest.
“The birds seem to be lighter this year than most, don’t know why, but thankful,” said Chad Day, owner of RoxyAnn Winery. “Too early to tell, but we are really excited about our Cab and Cab Franc this year. It looks like it is turning out to be great year for it.”
The Bear Creek Wine Trail starts in Ashland and extends through Talent, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Medford and Central Point. Overall, the birds have been accommodating, the bears have only wanted a sampling, and the big strong reds are getting plenty of time on the vine, making for an easy harvest that most winemakers won’t have to rush through like some years when the fruit needs to be harvested before the rain starts. Look for some amazing 2016 vintages from the Bear Creek Wine Trail. For more information, see www.bearcreekwineries.com