Is there a better time of year than harvest season in Oregon? It’s debatable. But there’s no denying that October is an exciting month in the world of agriculture. From pumpkins to apples, corn, and peaches, harvest season is always a favorite. And in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, we’re preparing for a bountiful harvest of grapes.
So what should you expect as wineries prepare for their harvest? In this article, we’re going to cover the down-low on Oregon’s harvest season, showing you precisely what goes into crafting quality wine in Oregon’s wine region.
Before harvesting grapes, it’s essential to determine whether the grapes should be picked. But how to tell if they’re ready once you spot those rolling hills of vines full of color?
By taste, of course. Similar to drinking wine, the taste is how expert winemakers know when the grapes are ready, or if the grapes are demanding some more time on the vine.
It’s difficult to tell when Oregon’s harvest season begins because of the variability of the weather. Some years, grapes are picked in late August. Other years, the grapes are harvested mid-October. The truth of the matter is it’s impossible to tell precisely when the grapes will get picked until it’s time to pick them.
Tasting a juice sampling helps. The juice will go from sweet to sweet and bursting with flavor with just a few additional days on the vine. After the juice meets expectations, the vineyard is relieved of the vine-ripened grapes.
The grapes are hand-sorted for quality purposes. Any bad grapes are discarded, leaving behind the freshest, most flavorful grapes plucked for wine creation. These grapes are then transported to a de-stemmer and crusher, resulting in the leaves and stems being separated from the grapes and the grapes getting crushed to perfection before the fermenting process begins.
Winos who visit during Oregon’s harvest season tend to return years later because of the imprint the experience leaves. Harvest season is only so many weeks long, meaning there are only so many weeks in a year that wine lovers can be a part of the energy.
Harvest luncheons are not uncommon during this time. The season attracts wine-lovers from all corners of the globe, encouraging special meals and wine tasting hostings throughout Oregon’s wine region.
As a visitor during the harvest season, you’ll experience first-hand the snipping of bunches of grapes. Empty plastic buckets become full plastic buckets, and then they’re dumped into bins. The whole process is lightning fast because the harvesters are paid by the bucketful as opposed to receiving an hourly wage.
The grapes are typically brought to the winery crush pads and unloaded. You might see workers manually removing damaged fruit, the scent of grapey sweetness filling the air. The fermenting process is done in massive vats that are checked for sugar level, temperature, color, and acidity to ensure everything goes just right.
You might see workers wielding a large tool comparable to a plunger. As the vat of grapes ferments, the worker will push down a layer of grape skins above the concoction. This is an old-school way of punching down the skins, making it an impressive sight for winos.
The experiences don’t stop at wine craftsmanship. You’ll find fireplaces roaring, culminating the perfect tasting atmosphere at Domaine de Brouglie and Angela Estate. And lest we forget about events such as Carlton Crush harvest festival.
While you may love wine, you haven’t fully experienced it until you engulf yourself in the harvest season. Come to Oregon’s wine country for an unforgettable time seeing everything that goes into wine craftsmanship, and book NW Wine Shuttle to take you to the best wineries Oregon’s wine region has to offer.