Off-the-beaten-track vineyard preparing for new vitality while enjoying harvest

The view south from the top of OSU's Woodhall Vineyard looks across the solitude of the Alpine valley about 30 miles south of campus. (photo: Larry Pribyl)

The view south from the top of OSU's Woodhall Vineyard looks across the solitude of the Alpine valley about 30 miles south of campus. (photo: Larry Pribyl)

When a loosely-knit group of u-pick customers, many affiliated with Oregon State, gives thanks at their respective Thanksgiving tables tomorrow, each will know they had a hand in one of the world’s most ancient of harvests on one of OSU’s least-known properties: Woodhall Vineyard.

“We had more than 20 people out there that Sunday,” said Sunny Lucas, manager of the small hillside property near Alpine, about 30 miles south of campus.

“It was a great atmosphere, a real camaraderie,” the faculty research assistant said of the students, hobbyists, and research faculty who participated in the harvest.

“For all the time we spend and the extremely hard labor we put in throughout the year, harvest is great,” she said.

A Duck doctor from the University of Oregon with ties to estates in England actually got the vineyard started, about 40 years ago, with the intention of selling quality grapes to amateur winemakers. The vineyard is also the final resting place for the doctor, Frank Baynes, and his wife Betty, who donated the property to the OSU Foundation and the Department of Horticulture in 1986.

Harvesting

Harvesting some of the last grapes toward the end of the Indian Summer is Sunny Lucas, manager of the Woodhall Vineyard. (photo: Larry Pribyl)

Frank was a physician at University of Oregon Student Health and practiced sports medicine for the U of O football team.

Now, as OSU gears up for the new Oregon Wine Institute, the vineyard has about five acres planted in grapes, Lucas said.

Ed Peachey, professor of weed ecology, is conducting a study to determine if certain herbicides can keep weeds down without affecting the grape harvest.

Paul Schreiner, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has some Phylloxera (an insect)-resistant rootstocks in pots buried in the ground to see how they deal with a microscopic nematode intruder.

Late last week, researchers from around campus and Oregon met at OSU to get ideas for future experimentation on the almost three unplanted acres of prime vineyard soil, said Lucas.

Meanwhile, those who purchased grapes a few Sundays ago from the vineyard have approximately seven tons of grapes taken from this year’s vines: merlot, pinot noir, pinot gris, and chardonnay.

“It was an average to light crop,” Lucas said, “but the quality seems very good, something grape producers throughout the Willamette Valley noticed this year as the Indian Summer kept the sun on the grapes, allowing for a late harvest.”

Patty Skinkis, who was hired last year as the viticulture Extension specialist and applied researcher,

Laboratory work

Laboratory work for Sunny Lucas, faculty research assistant, comes after the harvest, when the winter rains and dark clouds settle in. (photo: Ed Curtin)

hopes to revive Extension workshops and demonstrations at Woodhall in coming years.

Woodhall also is a working lab for undergraduate and graduate students. Classes and student clubs visit Woodhall to see what a wine grape production system looks like and how vineyard design and site assessment affect management practices.

“With the changes that are occurring and the new vitality we’re seeing in the viticulture and enology programs, we hope to have a larger presence, and get additional classes out to Woodhall, to increase the utility of the property,” Lucas said.

The existing vineyard serves as a demonstrative teaching and research facility. Future plantings are intended to serve as further research opportunities for faculty and students.

The Baynes, founders of the vineyard, planted vines until the late 1980s, ending up with about 14 acres and 22 different varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Müeller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc,

Sun-ripened grapes

Sun-ripened grapes hide beneath the turning leaves just before this year's harvest, the quality of which seems "very good." (photo: Larry Pribyl)

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, White Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Gewürztraminer, Gamay Noir, Chenin Blanc, Grignolino, Chasseles, Flora, Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot St. George, Grand Noir, and Napa Gamay.

The vineyard’s name comes from two Baynes’ family estates: one in England and the other in New York State. The property is primarily a south-facing slope, 450 to 700 feet in elevation, with approximately 15 acres suitable for wine grape production.

If the property is ever sold, a portion of the proceeds will go to the University of Oregon.

~ by Ed Curtin

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