Warm fall weather could mean exceptional vintage for Oregon wine makers

KPTV photo.

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - While many Oregonians are enjoying our summer weather revival, some local wine growers are especially relishing these unusually warm October days.

Most wine makers want to get the grapes off their vines before cold temperatures and the rainy season arrive, but this year, a few took a risk and waited.

And, according to Kevin Green, winemaker at Apolloni Vineyards, that gamble paid off. He says great weather will likely make for an exceptional vintage.

There are many varieties of wine grapes grown in the Willamette Valley. At Apolloni alone, there are rows of Pinot Noir, Pinot blanc, and Chardonnay, among others.

Green tells FOX 12 these all have one thing in common.

“Mother nature trumps all,” Green said. "Early season rain is always a risk and there is always the chance we'll have trouble ripening our fruit."

Earlier this month, it appeared the wet season had arrived. There were a few consecutive soggy days, during which temperatures plummeted.

But, according to Green, “They bounced back, everything dried out and we had this beautiful Indian summer."

A gift to those wine makers who did not rush to pick the fruit off their vines, and Green is one of them.

In addition to producing wines for Apolloni Vineyards, Green and his wife have their own label called La Randonnée.

Green wasn’t always a wine maker. Until a decade ago, he worked as a chemical engineer.

“Engineering is a great fit for making wine," Green said. "Especially chemical engineering.”

He says the career switch was tricky.

“You have to put your time in," Green said. "Working harvests and helping out… learning your craft.”

By now, he’s mastered the craft and is optimistic for this year’s vintage.

Because the grapes were able to hang on to the vines longer, he says their flavors are better developed.

Apolloni is one of several local vineyards still harvesting. Green says workers have picked about 100 tons of fruit this season.

Once the grapes are gathered, some go directly to the press that squeezes out their juice. Red grapes, however, are placed in fermenters.

“Pinot Noir with whatever healthy acidity, together with whatever sugar turns into alcohol is really a better-balanced wine,” Green said.

Once inside the fermenter, the grapes are punched down.

“We're just mashing the must back into the juice, so that we keep the contact together with the skins,” Green said.

It’s an arduous process and a good workout, according to the wine maker.

“The first plunge is the most difficult because you're trying to break through,” Green said.

The process is repeated twice a day and for the ones that are in the peak of their fermentation three times a day.

Fermentation takes a while, but when it is finished, the wine is placed in barrels and stored in a cave.

“It's all-natural cooling because it's underground,” Green said.

Keeping the wine stored at the ideal storage temperature of 50 to 55 degrees is crucial. Green says it’s just one step of a delicate process that can be easily sabotaged by bad weather.

But when you have a season like this one, it can result in a perfectly balanced wine that pairs great with sunny fall days.

“This weekend might be the last chance for beautiful weather,” Green said.

According to the FOX 12 weather team, there is more sunshine on the way.

So, you might consider a trip to wine country this weekend to see for yourself how Oregon’s world-renowned wine is made.

Here is a full list of upcoming wine harvest events: https://willamettewines.com/harvest/harvest-events/

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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