Riding a bike in the Willamette Valley, it doesn't take long to notice of how many vineyards you see everywhere. Over the last few decades, they have become an increasingly important fixture here. But you won’t see them on the floor of the valley; you’ve got to get out of your saddle and climb a few hills to get up to them. Several varieties of grapes are grown and harvested in the valley, but the experts agree that the number one grape is the Pinot noir. And it's got the awards to prove it.
If I’ve got my information right, wines are so popular here because of the red clay soil we call “Jory,” which is only found at about 300 feet and higher. The right kind of soil, paired with the right kind of climate. Our moderate temperatures (not overly cold in winter, not blazing hot in summer) seems to be as friendly to grapes as it is to cyclists. Go figure.
Wine growers are a little concerned about this year’s harvest because of the amount of cool, wet conditions we’ve had this summer. Some of them have already begun cutting clusters off the vine as a way to force the sugar from the leaves to sweeten the remaining berries before the harvest. That loss of part of their crop could spell trouble to their bottom line.
Fall tasting events, however, symbolize wine’s other “crop:” Tourism. This is big business, folks. You’ll see several road signs that point the way directly to your favorite tasting room, bed and breakfast, or restaurant. All of them, featuring your favorite local wines.
Mrs. C and I tried our hand at wine tasting once. It was pretty comical because we’re not very good at it. I’ll just say it--we’re wimps. They told us they’d be bringing us seven different varieties to taste. I think we surrendered after two and a half. I couldn’t make my eyelids work right, I was beginning to talk as if I’d just had a root canal. Guess I’m not much of a wine drinker. Give me a good cup of coffee anytime!
Part of the magic of riding in the valley is observing the seasonal rhythm that the vineyards follow. I just enjoy pedaling past the row-by-row greenery you see this time of year.
And on gray, rainy days like today, I like blogging about it.