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Despite Crop Concerns 2011 Vintage Excites Northwest Winemakers

Anna King


Northwest wine grape growers say winter damage, a wet, cold spring and a cool summer wiped out part of their crop and slowed down grape ripening. But as the harvest nears its end, winemakers say they are pretty excited about what they're crushing.

Some winemakers estimate the Northwest harvest will be down about 20 percent this year due to weather. That includes Marty Clubb, owner of L'Ecole near Walla Walla.

"We're so spoiled by these ideal conditions, that when we are faced with a few little challenges, it tests our nerves a bit," he says.

But less wine isn't always a bad thing, and those who watch wine closely think 2011 could be a stellar year for the Northwest.

Paul Gregutt is a well-known Northwest wine writer. He says this year's wines will likely be more complex, with lower alcohol and well-developed flavors.

"I think it's going to be, let's call it a winemakers' vintage. It's going to test a winemaker's skills," Gregutt says. "It's not going to be a slam dunk as some of the so-called great vintages are."

Most Washington winemakers say they will finish harvest in the next two weeks. Oregon's Willamette Valley growers are just beginning to take off their white grapes.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio