Considering the cold climate, is it possible to have a viable grape growing industry in Central Oregon? Approximately 50 members of the newly formed Central Oregon Grape Growers and Vintners Association at least believe in the possibility.
According to Mylen Bohle, area agronomist for OSU Extension Service in Central Oregon, several growers have planted various varieties throughout the years and have experienced varying degrees of success.
Ron and Susan Matheny of Madras are enjoying their third year of harvest from about 125 vines of hybrid and vinifera varieties. Kerry Damon, viticulturist at the Ranch at the Canyons in Terrebonne, oversees 3.5 acres of hybrid grapes and is looking forward to his first harvest. Doug Maragas of Maragas Winery, is experimenting with about 16 different vitis vinifera varieties and looks forward to someday being able to utilize his own grapes at his winery. Kurt and Nyssa Farris have harvested Concord grapes 14 out of the last 15 years. There are also table grape niche market opportunities for fresh market, U-pick, juice, and jellies.
People interested in growing grapes in Central Oregon have been attending workshops offered by OSU Extension Service to understand more about climate and vine physiology as well as variety selection and vineyard establishment. Tours of established vineyards have also been included where participants learn about pruning techniques, irrigation methods and cover crops.
“We have evidence that grapes have been growing here for the past 13 to 15 years so certain varieties will grow in Central Oregon. The question is, can certain grapes can be grown for harvest and I believe they can,” says Mylen, noting that it is exciting to be part of a potentially new industry.