Wine crush off to early start

A warm summer hurried the Valley’s grape harvest.


WALLA WALLA — The crush is on and it’s earlier than normal this year.

The warm summer weather has pushed wine grape growers to begin harvest earlier than usual, some more so than others, according to various growers.

“There are some people reporting the grapes are a month ahead before than are normally ripe,” said Jeff Popick, Walla Walla Community College viticulturist. But while the warm and dry summer has hurried harvest, it also had its benefits, particularly in reducing disease pressure on the grape crops.

At Pepper Bridge Winery, Jean-Francios Pellet reported they started harvest on Sept. 11 this year, but while that’s earlier than usual, it’s not abnormal.

“We would usually start between the 15th and 17th of September, so we’re really about 5-7 days ahead of schedule,” he said.

The quality of the grapes coming off the vines “looks very good,” Pellet said, and the quantity is holding up as well. At Woodward Canyon Winery, general manager Darcy Fugman-Small had similar news.

“The quality is great, but it’s a smaller crop this year,” she said.

Duane Wollmuth of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance also said the quality is holding up.

“The reds are in very good shape. The flavors have developed very well,” he said. Grapes grown for white wines have had their challenges, but are also doing well.

All said the major question now is weather, especially wet weather.

“We’re going to be under an increased threat from rain,” Popick said. Grapes “can take some rain, but not a lot of rain.”

This year’s crop statewide has the potential to break the 2012 record of about 188,000 tons of wine grapes, officials said.

The total size of the crop won’t be known until later this year.

Andy Porter can be reached at or 526-8318.


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