Friday, November 25, 2011

Eating Frenzy on Black Friday

This year, for the first time since we planted our grapes in 1984, we were not able to harvest due to low sugars and a general lack of ripening. We had a very late cool, wet Spring along with a cool Summer. Most vineyards with an elevation over 600-700 feet were in trouble. Every vineyard was a month or more behind schedule on ripening, and since we normally harvest in late October, our window of opportunity was considerably diminished!

We normally put up bird netting since the migratory birds come in mid October and birds love grapes! Many vineyards who don't normally do this because of earlier harvest dates, were forced to net or use canons. By early October we knew we'd be too low in sugars to harvest , so we didn't net. Our sugars only got to a high of 18 BRIX ...not good enough.

As the leaves in the vineyard turned yellow and then slowly fell off with our first frost, it became more obvious that something this year was different! No nets to remove.....only rows and rows of beautiful, plump grapes! They would normally have turned a deep reddish purple ( veraison ) in September, but even that color change wasn't happening very uniformly. Many clusters were still green or only tinged with purple. The fruit was clean, but not ripening fast enough.

The day after Thanksgiving it happened.....thousands of birds ...clouds of birds ....descended into the vineyard! The noise was deafening. many roosted in the high firs and black walnut trees that ring our 12 acre property. As I write this a day later, they are still may take a few days to eat, what we estimate, are 12-14 tons of grapes!

The air was filled with birds......

And then the vines were filled with birds....

And finally, the lawn!....

Can you find the birds ( six or more) in this photo?


A close-up taken by my husband....looking into the swarm as it passed above the vineyard block!

It is fascinating to watch them swoop and move around in large clouds across the vineyard rows .... they appear to be mostly Starlings, with some orange breasted Robins scattered in the mix. A few hawks have come to observe, causing the large masses of birds to divide and disperse, and then reform again on the other side of the vineyard.

Not just another day in the vineyard!

We just hope that next year we can bring our crop in at the normal 22+ sugar, and that the birds have a short memory!

In the mean time, you can taste Oregon Pinot Gris at

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