Grape harvest is early again this year
TRI-COUNTY AREA—Some wineries have started the annual harvest of grapes, part of the long process in making wine, and it’s happened early again this year by about two weeks.
In the coming weeks, more wineries will be going out into the fields to harvest the grapes. Several wineries are reporting this is happening between one and two weeks early. The harvest last year was also earlier than usual by about three weeks. This year’s grapes have been through various extremes in weather, from temperatures in the 90s to lots of rain.
Fred Frank, owner of Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera, said they will start next week harvesting sparkling wine grapes, which will be two weeks early. Frank said they normally harvest the table grapes several weeks from now. He said the grapes have a head start on ripening. He called it “great news,” as long as the weather remains cool in the fall. He said there were some downsides to this year’s growing period, namely the droughts. However, Frank said thanks to the August rains, the vines fared nicely.
Frank said the other downside is that the overall weather conditions might mean lower grape yields. Specifically, he said the Riesling grapes may be smaller than usual. He explained the drought conditions caused the smaller berries.
The grape harvest at Rooster Hill Vineyards will start later this week and into next week. Amy Hoffman said a usual harvest begins in mid to late September based on previous harvests.
Hoffman said the early rains this year kept the grapes clean, while the heat kept the mold and mildew at bay. She said the vines and canopy are very vigorous. She added the harvest overall looks good, just as long as the fall is not cloudy and rainy.
Eileen Farnan, owner of Barrington Cellars on Keuka Lake, said they started harvesting grapes for juice last week. She said the weeks of 90 degree weather was what moved up the harvest. However, Farnan added the winery also had a slow start in the spring due to the weather.
Farnan said there were fewer Japanese beetles this year, adding the heat might have helped with that. She added when the temperatures get as high as they did the inspects don’t like it. The rain was a concern again when Hurricane Irene traveled up the east coast.
“Irene didn’t get to us. It would have been devastating,” said Farnan. She explained excessive rain will make the grapes bigger with water and become split and cracked. If that happens, the growers have to harvest the grapes then or lose the fruit.
Peter Martini, vineyard manager for Anthony Road Wine Company, said this year is mostly on track for a regular harvest time. He explained Anthony Road won’t harvest some viniferas until late September, but they are harvesting some hybrids now.
“It stands to be a good year for the reds,” Martini said. “I wasn’t optimistic a month ago.”
Another concern Anthony Road had was Hurricane Irene. He said they “dodged a bullet” with that storm front. Martini said it would be devastating if Irene had done to the Finger Lakes what it did to New Hampshire.
“I’ve had a terrible time with downy mildew,” he added. “Japanese beetles are still around.”
Mark Karasz, owner of Rock Stream Vineyards on Seneca Lake, said he has harvested some grapes already this year. However, he said it is not unusual to be harvesting those in August.
He has said he will not be harvesting any of the main crops earlier than usual though. Especially for Riesling he said, “never in September.” He added this year’s harvest will be a “large quantity. The quality is yet to be determined.”
At Lakewood Vineyards, Dave Stamp said the harvest is about one week ahead of normal. Compared to last year’s early harvest Stamp said they are running behind. During the spring, Stamp said he thought this year’s harvest would be a different story, but “nature turned around.”
Stamp said the weather ended up being good for the red varieties and Rieslings. However, he added “it will be tough to live up to last year.”
Tom Malina, owner of Castel Grisch Winery on Seneca Lake, said they will start the harvest this week with the Pinot Noir. He too said this was earlier than usual. He explained the winery occasionally has early harvests based on the weather. Malina said the winery must harvest early if it is a rainy fall. He said a dry fall is better, that way the sugars can build up in the fruit without there being too much water.