Wash. winemakers still waiting for grapes



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Posted on September 13, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 14 at 2:33 PM

WOODINVILLE, Wash. - Chris Sparkman runs Sparkman Cellars. In fact, a whole complex of buildings in Woodinville is full of small wineries. But these days it's a waiting game.

"It's a late year. It's a unique opportunity," said Sparkman.

In Eastern Washington, the buds broke out early. But the harvest is coming late.  Because even in this half of the state, temperatures have been on a hot and cool roller coaster. And grapes are taking their time getting ripe.

So when are the grapes going to get here? Chris Sparkman thinks in about a week. And then this whole place is going to get really, really busy.

His workforce is getting equipment ready. Sparkman heads to eastern Washington on Tuesday to look at the grapes and talk to his growers.

Washington now has nearly 700 wineries. The industry has doubled in five years.

But this year is complicated. Some wine growing areas were unusually wet on the dry side of the state. One wine observer says this season had the potential to become the "perfect storm."

"It remains to be seen," said Robin Pollard, Executive Director of the Washington Wine Commission. "We know with the delay in harvest, there will be some compression in the amount of time we have to get the grapes off the vine and into the cellar."

Growers have had to spend a lot more time managing their crop, some varieties of vines are more vulnerable to the wacky weather than others.

But Sparkman says all this stress can lead to some fabulous wines.

"Our suspicion is we will be 24/7 for about three weeks, it's probably all going to happen at once," he said.