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In Oregon, it was a very good year.

Byline: Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Savor this: Oregon wines enjoyed another in a string of record-breaking years in 2007, increasing production by 12.2 percent and value by 20.5 percent over 2006.

Lane County remained at No. 6 among Oregon counties in wine grape production, managing a 3 percent increase in tonnage despite a slight dip in acres harvested - 696 in 2007, compared with 699 in 2006.

"(Lane County) is still an area of opportunity, because we have done a very bad job of educating the public about the quality of wines that can be produced in our region," said Steve Girard, co-owner of Benton-Lane Winery near Monroe and chairman emeritus of the Oregon Wine Board.

"They're doing a much better job of it up north (in Yamhill, Polk and Washington counties)," he said. "That hasn't happened down in the Eugene-Corvallis area yet."

Overall, Lane County accounted for 5.2 percent of the wine grapes produced in Oregon last year - 2,010 tons out of the 38,600 produced statewide.

Yamhill County led the way with 11,910 tons, followed by Polk at 5,097, Washington at 4,122, Marion at 3,801 and Jackson at 2,991. Marion County had the most dramatic increase, jumping almost 59 percent from the 2,392 tons produced in 2006.

In Lane County, King Estate near Lorane remains the dominant player and continued to increase its plantings last year, spokesman Steve Baker said. More than 80 acres of new pinot gris and pinot noir vines were planted in 2007, following more than 100 acres the previous year.

"We're pretty excited about what's going on," Baker said. "We've been planting some of the more promising parts of the vineyard that we've been saving for a while.

"And, of course, you don't really see anything (in terms of grape production) for the first three to four years."

That kind of potential-in-waiting appears to be a strong suit among Lane County's 42 vineyards, which reported a total of 1,042 acres planted in 2007 - up from 929 a year earlier - but just 696 acres harvested.

Another key statistic statewide that stands out for Girard, at Benton-Lane Winery, is the big increase in value of Oregon's 2007 wine grapes. The total value of the 2007 crop - $72.6 million - increased 8.3 percentage points more than the crop's tonnage (38,600).

"That tells you something, doesn't it?" Girard said. "The last three years or so have been just incredible. There's been a significant amount of attention being brought to Oregon, and a substantial amount of attention being brought to pinot noir (which accounts for 64 percent of the state's wine grape crop)."

Oregon wineries also are developing a reputation for sustainable practices and organic products, and the state's pinot noir grapes have been found to contain an unusually high level of the anti-cancer, heart-healthy compound resveratrol.

"All those things put together are bringing a lot of deserved attention to Oregon winemakers," Girard said. "Absolutely, it's our turn."

Overall, Oregon had 792 vineyards located primarily in 14 counties last year. A total of 17,400 acres was planted in wine grapes, with 13,800 acres harvested.

Lane County wine in 2007

Wineries: 42

Total production: 2,010 tons

Top production: Pinot gris, 997 tons; pinot noir, 824 tons
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Title Annotation:Business; The state's growers break records for grape production and the value of the harvest
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 23, 2008
Words:551
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