BENTON CITY, Wash. – Northwest winemakers say they’re optimistic that 2012 will turn out to be a great vintage. Many of the region’s red wine grapes are just on the edge of starting to change color and ripen. The timing of this color change is a good indication of the coming harvest’s quality.
Scott Williams is a pretty jovial guy. But get this Red Mountain wine grower in the middle of some color-changing grapes and he’s just giddy.
It’s a hot summer day at his Kiona Vineyard. We wade into an undulating sea of bright green Lemberger vines.
“It’s very gratifying to make it through all the disasters that could happen without any of them happening and to have such promise,” Williams says.
By promise, Williams means this year could yield some really good wine. Northwest winemakers have struggled for several years with winter damage and cool weather. This “normal” year is cause for cautious celebration from Oregon’s Willamette Valley to Washington’s Red Mountain and growing areas throughout Idaho.
“Because we’ve had an adequate amount of heat without having excessive heat and grapes are sort of like people they like to be comfortable,” Williams explains.
Williams takes a bunch and cradles it in hand. He explains that once he sees a few berries on these grape clusters turn purple he knows he’s about to enter the madness of crush. That’s when all the fruit is brought into the winery.
“It’s a pretty strong signal that you better have all your ducks in a row for crush," Williams says. "So your equipment needs to be maintained and ready, and your supplies need to be here and your people need to be in place -– it’s a football game. It all happens in a pretty short period of time.”
Williams thinks his vineyard on Red Mountain –- one of the earliest sites in the Northwest -- is about six weeks from harvest.
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