Wine grape growers in the South Willamette Valley wrapped up harvest a few weeks ago. It was ahead of schedule this year due to the early onset of heat this summer. Oregon winemakers are pleased with the flavor and yield of this year's grapes.
Mark Jurasevich used to farm Noble Fir Christmas Trees here at Noble Estate Winery in Eugene. But in 1999, he started growing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay grapes. The boutique winery produces about 5-thousand barrels a year. I asked Jurasivich about his expectations for the 2015 vintage.
Jurasevich: I think our quality of grapes is way above average this year because of the heat. I think that we'll have more complex wines.
McDonald: Does that affect the volume also because you harvested earlier?
Jurasevich: Yes, our yield was up this year from prior years, due to the heat I believe and I think we're going to produce beautiful wines for 2015.
McDonald: Does it worry you at all when you have a hot summer though. Are you concerned about changes in the climate that might effect your, the ability to grow these kinds of grapes here?
Jurasevich: I am not too concerned about it at this point. All of our different varietals made it through just fine. We did not have to irrigate anything.
McDonald: It sounds like you're optimistic about the 2015 vintage. Do you think it's going to be exceptional compared to previous?
Jurasevich: I think so. I've been in the business for 16 years. One year that was very hot, similar to this, was 2012 and actually 2014 was quite hot too. And, I believe that we're going to have superb vintages and I think '15 will be very similar.
McDonald: So, have you tasted it?
Jurasevich: Yes, we actually taste our grapes as they're ripening and we've processed most of our grapes as far as crushing them. We're actually still fermenting them at this time but as far as the juice and grapes, they had excellent flavors.
McDonald: What is kind of the worst thing that can happen, weather-wise? Is it just inconsistency in terms of heat and cold?
Jurasevich: Well, that can have an effect on our yields and our grapes. The birds can have quite an effect on it. We actually net all of our vineyards to protect our grapes. But this year, since it was an earlier season by three weeks, we actually beat the birds to the grapes. So, in that respect, that even helped this season.
McDonald: Do you see more people coming maybe from California to buy land here because of the drought in California?
Jurasevich: Yes. I believe that is happening. There's been a number of large wineries from California purchasing land between Salem and McMinnville. So I think that will be a trend that will continue. Our land can be as much as $30 thousand an acre whereas in Napa Valley it's $300 thousand an acre. So, I think we'll see more and more of that in the future.
Mark Jurasivich is owner and winemaker at Noble Estate Winery in Eugene. The winery is opening a new tasting room in Newport Saturday.