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Winemakers Report Plentiful Harvest

Short winter, dry summer and other factors produce bountiful fruit in 2012.

As winemakers across the North Fork pull the last of their grapes off the vines this week, the consensus among many of those in the industry points to a particularly ripe harvest for one of the area's moneymakers.

Winemakers attributed a variety of reasons for the outcome they're seeing so far in the fields: a warm winter, a dry summer, and a natural progression of winemaking processes, among the countless factors that go into any harvest.

Bedell Cellars winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich noted in a blog post on Patch that this season's harvest is yet another one complete before the end of October – a trend that was previously considered uncommon – though the product coming in is "extremely ripe and flavorful."

"I'm so excited about the wines we have in the tanks right now," Olsen-Harbich wrote. "The whites are full of vibrant aromatics and zesty acidity, the rosés are lush and flowery with waves of saline minerality and the reds are dark, bold, and velvety, with lovely savory, gravelly depth and lots of earthy spiciness."

A historically warm winter last year resulted in an earlier harvest for Old Field Vineyards' owner Chris Baiz, as a high number of primary buds survived from the previous season. Baiz said he saw 95 percent of his vine buds survive the winter, compared to a typical 60 percent rate, roughly.

"We basically had four March's in a row instead of December, January, February and March," Baiz said. 

Baiz said he would have preffered a later harvest to let the fruit hang longer, though a heavy rainfall last week had some winemakers rushing to the fields to pluck before mold hit the crops – an issue that didn't rear its head much this summer, Jamesport Vineyards owner Ron Goehler noted.

"Thank God we had a warm summer," Goehler said.

Alice Wise, viticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, noted that, "The wine industry lives for warm, dry weather and we were lucky enough to see a nice stretch in July and August."

Weather aside, Shinn Estate Vineyards co-owner David Page said after a decade of harvests, much of what he owes goes far beyond the temperature and rainfall, and back to the work his wife Barbara does in the fields.

"Over the years, it has been developing systems that grow out wine in a particular way that creates what we think of as life force in a glass. Living wine," he said. "It's an evolutionary thing, right? ... Where the soil work that Barbara has done is now resulting in this life force being translated through the roots of the vine into the fruit and ultimately into the glass. It's a philosophy."

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