Bumper-to-bumper traffic, congestion, crazy drivers, flaring tempers. Sounds like the Terwilliger curves around 5 o'clock, right?
Pinot noir grapes from Sunnyside Vineyard.
Well, commuters, you can be comforted knowing you're not the only ones feeling the pain of too much traffic in too few lanes. The normally idyllic backroads of Oregon wine country, from NE Gun Club Road to the Dayton Cutoff and beyond, are clogged with hundreds of old rattle-traps loaded to the point of collapse with grapes destined for wineries big and small, up and down the valley.
Pinot gris straight from the vines.
The harvest this year is rumored to be one of the best since the fabled '08 vintage, maybe even as good as the best the state has ever seen. The long, dry Indian summer with its warm days and cool nights has been ideal in the region's vineyards. Winemakers and vineyard managers, the folks who control the levers of the harvest as far as how the vines are groomed and when the grapes are ready, have had the pleasure of actually letting the fruit hang until it's reached its moment of perfection, without the pressure of impending rain or frost.
How much is ten tons of grapes? 37 bins, sorted in one day!
For the third year in a row, Brian Marcy and Clare Carver of Big Table Farm allowed me to come out and help sort the grapes that'll be going into their 2012 pinot noir and pinot gris wines. In previous years, vigilance was required to spot mold hiding in the tightly-packed clusters. And this year there was almost no damage from birds, which caused a huge problem two years ago (compare the photos above with those from 2010).
The beautiful Lucy Hoffman applying some gentle pigeage.
In both those years, the conveyor belt carrying the fruit had to be slowed way down so we could better see any flaws, and we ended up tossing out copious amounts of fruit. This year the grape clusters were gorgeous and the belt whizzed by, since all we had to do was pick out leaves and debris. (I even got to save a praying mantis that had somehow fallen into the bin.)
Thanks, Clare, for a great day!
It was a pleasure to grab a cluster and chomp down, letting the fruit explode in my mouth. Standing on the line was also much nicer this harvest, too, with the warm-but-not-hot sun on my back and the yellow jackets few and far between.
I can't wait to taste of the wines from this vintage when it's released next year, having experienced how luscious the fruit was. Knowing the talent of the winemakers we've got around here, I'm guessing it'll be legendary.