Washington grape harvest still strong

by Rebecca Pettingill
Hagadone News Network | June 8, 2022 1:00 AM

CENTRAL WASHINGTON — Despite a cold spring, wine grapes are looking good, according to a couple of local growers.

Pete Beaumont, owner of Beaumont Cellars based in Quincy, sources grapes in the Ancient Lakes, Wahluke Slope and Red Mountain American Viticultural areas.

Beaumont said that, unlike other fruit, grapes start late enough in the year that frost is not much of a concern.It has, however, pushed this year’s grape harvest back about 10 days.

Beaumont said that in mid-May, grapes haven’t even bloomed yet and that risk to the grape harvest is not likely until after they have bloomed.

Besides wine grapes, Beaumont also grows apples and cherries.

“I’ve been growing fruit for 44 years and I have never frost-protected after May 10,” said Beaumont. “And I’ve done it twice this year already.”

Marshall Edwards, vineyard operations manager for Shaw Vineyards and Northwest Vineyard Management, agreed with Beaumont’s estimation of being behind by about 10 days.

He monitors vineyards in the Wahluke Slope and Red Mountain American Viticultural Areas - also known as AVAs.

“We were lucky. You know, the cool weather kept everything behind. And so a lot of the grapes didn’t even have bud break when we had that cold weather and so as far as seeing any frost damage, I mean, we’ve really seen very, very minimal in vineyards, very minimal,” said Edwards.

He added that the fact it was pretty cool leading up to the frost, rather than a sudden drop, is why the frost wasn’t too much of an issue.

Edwards said once the grapes get to bloom and to set is when they will know how the rest of the year is going to go.

He said that the last couple of years the clusters of the vineyards he oversees have been on the light side so he is hopeful that this year will be back to a more normal harvest. He attributed, especially last year’s light crop, to the abnormal heat that Washington experienced.

“Things look really good and on the wine grape side you know, the vines are really fruitful. We have a lot of clusters out there right now,” said Edwards. “Things look really good.”

The 2021 Grape Production Report by the Washington State Wine Commission showed that the 2021 Washington wine grape production totaled 179,600 tons, a 1% increase from 2020.

Rebecca Pettingill can be reached via email at rpettingill@columbiabasinherald.com.