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Wine makers fret over cool spring, still hope for good vintage

Elaine Thompson
Carlos Valencia harvests riesling grapes on the farm of Mike Miller, near Prosser, Wash. File photo.

Northwest winemakers are holding out hope for a good 2011 vintage despite this being the coldest spring they can remember in decades. Growers say they’re plants are about three weeks behind their usual growth for this time of year.

Charlie Hoppes says in the 23 years he’s been making wine, this is the coldest spring he’s seen.

“This is it. So far, but that could change.”

Near Walla Walla there are some vines that were frozen back to the ground this past winter. That means managers will have to start vines again from the roots. Where Hoppes makes wine near the Tri-Cities, a lot of the plant’s tender buds were frosted. He says instead of the strongest primary buds coming out to grow grapes, the plants are sending their second-string and third-string buds to play out the season. And he says those lesser buds usually make lesser wine.

“If you are trying to harvest all of them together it just doesn’t work. ‘Cause they are usually not ripe at the same time that the primary clusters are ripe. Most of the time we don’t even use them at all.”

He plans to thin his grapes to ripen them faster. And he says he still holds out hope for a great vintage.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio


Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.