Weather makes for sweet grapes, early harvest at wineries

Watch your local TV broadcast for more on this story.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Some wine critics have said that this year's early grape harvest in Oregon might produce some of the best wine this year.

Grape gurus like Amanda Cihlar, the vineyard manager at Sweet Cheeks Winery, agree that Oregon's wineries have a tasty crop to work with.

"We're looking at a slightly smaller crop, however it's been a very warm summer with some colder nights, so our grapes are ahead of schedule anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks," Cihlar said.

While that may only push their harvest time forward a couple weeks, the vineyard manager said that storms from Oregon's early fall season can quickly damper any harvest.

Sweet Cheeks has already received a batch of grapes from their growers in Monroe and Cihlar said they plan to start harvesting their own crop in the coming week.

Oregon State University horticulturist Steve Renquist said the weather has made this year's harvest is one of the best in years.

"We had some weeks like earlier in the season that were 90-degrees for a couple days so that really sped up the ripening of the grapes," said Cihlar.

She added that the riper the grapes get, the sweeter they taste. Vintners usually work to find the perfect balance between sweet and sour, and having the right grapes can make all the difference.

"Sweeter grapes produce more, and produce more alcohols. Also the grapes are on the vine a little bit longer and they develop more flavors, they develop more colors," Cihlar said.

While winemakers are eager to start in on the early harvest, Cihlar said you'll have to wait at least one year to try this year's vintage.