Winemaker: Late summer heat adds flavorful depth to vintage

LORANE, Ore. - Winemakers welcome the late summer blast of heat, the winemaker at Sweet Cheeks winery said Wednesday.

Days in the 90s and 80s help develop the sugars in the grapes.

That can give the wine a depth it might otherwise lack in a crop harvested after an abnormally cool fall.

And it's not just wine that benefits. While you may be sweating the heat, local plant life is loving it.

Jared Henderson, owner and manager of Thistledown farm, says the late heat has been extremely beneficial for most crops.

"They're doing great," says Jared. "The quality is very high."

Things that are flourishing at Henderson's farm: pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, and even flowers.

But not everything deals well with heat.

"It lead to what I felt was an earlier than normal demise to some of the berries," laments Henderson.

"Strawberries, for example, they like it to be dry, but temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. They don't like it too hot."

But not every small, sweet crop is suffering.

SweetCheeks vineyard manager Amanda Cihlar says the warmer the weather, the better the wine.

"With hotter weather, the acidity decreases, and you get more phenolics which gives the grapes more flavor and aromas, and usually makes for a better wine. If you get more rain towards harvest time, you can get an increased acidity, which can mask some of the flavors."

The heat also helps to dry out the wine crop, which prevents botrytis.

Botrytis, also known as noble rot, is a fungus that dehydrates grapes, which will concentrate the sugars for a sweet wine.

But if you're not trying to make a dessert wine, botrytis can be extremely detrimental to a wine crop, and Cihlar says the heat is helping to keep the fungus at bay.

On top of the agricultural benefits, Henderson says the heat also has an aesthetic advantage.

"We pick up a lot of pumpkins off the ground, and if it's dry the dirt doesn't stick to them too bad and they're really clean and it just makes things a lot easier."

An added bonus: Henderson says the heat brings people out and about, and into his business.

"When it's hot, people want to be doing something, and sometimes that brings them here," he said. "It definitely helps with business. I want it to stay sunny for as long as possible."