The weather here in Oregon is spectacular right now and all forecasts are for more of the same i.e., unseasonably warm and dry weather for the next 10 days (one long range forecaster interviewed recently, predicts an unseasonably dry November even). If that’s the case, I’m going to “hang, baby hang” to paraphrase one of the more comical slogans of the current political theatre.
As of this writing, I have approximately 3-1/2 acres of Syrah on the vine as well as ¾ acres of Riesling. Exciting as this extended period of warm, dry weather may be – and believe me, I am excited, several other mitigating factors are causing me sleepless nights and great anxiety. You see, this extended hang time is really “Risky Business” to a grape grower. The longer it hangs, the less crop I get, of course. Theoretically, this risk should be compensated for by a corresponding increase in grape, and therefore wine, quality. But that’s only true if I actually get to harvest something – therein lies the rub.
The weather is beautiful – visibility is extraordinary (at the top of the hill above us we could see 5 mountains the other day – Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson – incredible, considering Mt. Rainer is something like 300 miles North of here). But, I digress – this wonderful clear, warm weather is also great if you’re a bird, or a yellow jacket!
Most of the syrah is looking pretty darn good. The clusters are gorgeous, the berries big and full but they are not quite ripe. Over the past week, the fruit has changed dramatically in taste. Rather than green and vegetative flavors, the delicious fruit has become much more prominent. The seeds are about 80% brown now, a sure sign of approaching physiological maturity.
The Riesling looks pretty good too!
This Riesling fruit is much more ripe than the Syrah – upper 20’s sugar wise but still with acidity that is quite high. Since we have a cooperative weather pattern, I’m thinking we’ll let her hang some more and do a late harvest.
Now for the downside of hang time. First, there are the birds, they’re hungry too and the blackberries are all dried up!
In the photo above, you can see a hole pecked in a ripe grape. Once a hole has been pecked thru the skins, the yellow jackets devour the flesh inside.
And those yellows love ripe grapes, they can get downright mean if you mess with them (and I happen to be alergic to the little monsters). I wonder if they had yellowjackets on The Arc – that was a huge mistake!
Fortunately, the damage from the yellowjackets is relatively insignificant.
At least they don’t seem to pick it clean like the birds do. A sight like this is enough to make an environmentalist like me cringe! OK, OK – take it easy, don’t call Audubon on me.
While I’ve got my back turned, sometimes Bob helps himself to the bottom of some clusters. My vineyard manager Evan asked me if I had coyotes – I explained that Bob likes to think he’s a wild dog( except for when he’s riding shotgun in the Gator).
I guess you could say that we all must share – with the birds, the bees (yellowjackets anyway) and the wild animals (that would be Bob). There’s only one problem with this seemingly symbiotic relationship – I hate to share!