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Wine Harvest Report

Stewart Boedecker and Athena Pappas are two of the nicest people on the planet. Not only have they allowed me full access to their brand-new urban winery in Northwest Portland’s industrial neighborhood, and home to their label, Boedecker Cellars, but they’ve agreed to let me work and get my hands dirty during this year’s harvest. Which brings me to this first Harvest Report. For the next few of weeks, I’ll be posting a quick summary of the past weekend’s work for a behind-the-scenes peek into a bustling urban winery at the height of the harvest season. Not having any experience working inside a winery (or, alas, with heavy machinery), I was a little unsure of what to expect, but Stewart and Athena were quick to make me feel at ease (even after I crashed the electric pallet jack into a 1.5-ton bin of sorted grapes).

With barely noticeable rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures in September and October, Willamette Valley winemakers are opting to let their fruit hang on the vine longer this year then with previous vintages. Last weekend, 11 tons of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon were trucked into the Boedecker winery, while another 10 tons of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are still waiting on the vine. Stewart and I took a side trip Friday afternoon to check in on fruit at Anderson Family Vineyards in Newberg, Oregon, and tasted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Boedecker’s south-facing block. The Chardonnay is bright with good acidity, while the Pommard-clone Pinot is light and floral. Boedecker plans on having this picked in the next couple of days.

Sorting Pinot Noir from Momtazi and Carlton Hill Vineyards off the conveyor belt was quick and easy; the whole clusters were dark and juicy with barely any botrytis-infected fruit to separate out. Their de-stemmer, which was assembled just 12 hours before the first fruit arrived last week, gently plucks whole grapes from the stems and carefully drops the fruit into 4×4 foot plastic bins, from where the grapes will await fermentation, which I’ll get to experience this weekend.

Tune in next week for Harvest Report, Part 2: Forklift Driving Lessons and Fermenters!

—Tracy Howard

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