BENTON CITY, WA – This week’s low temperatures can be risky for wine grape growers but for some vinters the weather is appreciated. Scott Williams figures he lost about 15 tons of grapes to wind and birds while he was waiting on the cold. It has to get pretty darn frigid to bring in his crop for ice wine – at least into the low teens.
(photo: Kyle MacLachlan and Eric Dunham sip some Baby Bear wine straight from the barrel. The L.A.-based actor and Walla Walla winemaker have teamed up to make high-end wines.)
If you want to see stars outside of Hollywood, head to a Northwest winery. Across the region winemakers are increasingly courting rockers, artists and movie stars to help market premium wines. In the down economy, they hope a little rub of star dust will add some cache to the fermented juice.
(photo: Gilles Nicault, a winemaker for Long Shadows out
of Walla Walla, WA, inspects his grapes on Red Mountain. He makes high
end wines which face a tough economy.)
WALLA WALLA, WA - The bad economy has hit the
Northwest wine industry hard. That’s especially true in the market for
high-end wines. In the last 20 years, Washington alone has added 600
new wineries. Now, signs of stress are leaking out in one of the
region’s wine hubs, the Walla Walla Valley.
(photo: Walla Walla is known as Washington's wine capital. But as the economy
has faltered, Eastern Washington winemakers are heading West and
opening tasting rooms far from the vineyard.)
WALLA, WALLA, WA - Walla Walla is known as
Washington's wine capital. But as the economy has faltered, a trend is
emerging. Eastern Washington winemakers are heading West over the
Cascades. They're opening tasting rooms in Woodinville wine country,
near Seattle, to be closer to their customers. This week, as winemakers
process their latest grape harvest, we're looking at how the wine
industry is adjusting to the new economy.
September 3, 2008 Weather for grape growers and for the rest of us will probably warm up through Friday. Saturday, a weak storm system might douse northeast Washington and Idaho. Next week it’s supposed to cool down again.
In the Northwest and British Columbia, wine grape growers are slashing fruit off the vines. They are hoping that cutting down some of the bunches will sweeten-up the remaining grapes quicker. Ingo Grady is with Mission Hills Winery in Okanagan Valley. He has just a month and a half to harvest Cabernet, Syrah and Cab Franc grapes before the cold weather hits.
GRADY: So that doesn’t give us a lot of time. It will be going from a nice sort of easy going beaches and peaches mentality to fire drills for the next six weeks.
A late and small harvest means less money for growers, but it could be good news for connoisseurs. Paul Champoux grows Columbia Valley grapes for some of the Northwest’s top labels. He thinks ’08 could turn into a superb vintage, maybe even like the fabled ’99.
CHAMPOUX: It will be interesting to see what this vintage turns out because of the Mother Nature we got this year. I think the grapes are tasting real well already you know.
Still, Washington winemakers say they are most worried about ripening up their Cabernet. That’s one of the last varieties to be picked. Oregon grape growers are hoping for a dry fall that won’t rot their pinot noir.
RICHLAND/In wine circles there's a debate: man versus machine. We're talking about how the grapes are picked. Some say you can taste the difference between hand picked grapes and machine harvested fruit. Others say machines are an inevitable reality.
The wine industry is a relatively minor source of emissions, when compared to cars and power plants. But that hasn't stopped some in the industry from setting their own goals to reduce their environmental impact.
WASHINGTON/We're all familiar with the grape harvest in the fall. But in summer a different kind of harvest takes place. The part few people ever see. Correspondent Anna King takes us inside Eastern Washington's bottling season.