Grape Growers Worry About 2011 Quality, Quanities

Rain-soaked vineyards cause growers to worry about disease, lower yields. Despite efforts to drop diseased fruit, some producers report severe crop losses.

The monsoon rains that drenched East End vineyards earlier this month have wine-grape growers concerned about the quality and quantity of this year’s harvest, now underway. Some say they may have lost as much as half their crop of certain varieties.

And even as some growers have begun harvesting white varieties and pinot noir grapes for sparkling wine, they’re keeping their fingers crossed as they cull their vineyards, dropping grapes that have been compromised by disease or those that have burst from the heavy rain to prevent further disease.

“This is a year that requires precision vineyard management,” said Miguel Martin, winemaker at Palmer Vineyards, Riverhead,  “We are doing everything we can to fight natural events.”

In little more than a week in late August and early September East End grape growers saw in quick succession Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee drench their vineyards. 

The rains put an exclamation point on what already had been a difficult growing season. Rainfall on Long Island in August totaled nearly 14 inches, compared with the National Weather Service’s normal figure, about 4 inches.

“Overall, the season has been difficult across the board,” said Anthony Nappa, owner and winemaker of Anthony Nappa Wines in Southold. He said he picked (red) pinot noir grapes for his Anomaly, a white wine on Thursday, but noted it’s too early to tell about the quality of the vintage. “What's there seems to be shaping up nicely,” he said.

At Lenz Winery in Peconic, winemaker Eric Fry said he’s completely harvested a number of white varieties, including pinot gris, but he said he’s lost anywhere from a third to a half of the white grape crop.That means he — and others who’ve lost crops — will be making less wine. That translates into lower sales when the wines eventually are released.

Nevertheless, Fry said, red grapes good. “The reds are all sprayed and healthy and not a problem.”’

Most reds grapes — merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc — are not harvested until mid-fall, if not later, so growers will need plentiful sunshine through remainder of the fall.

 “The flavors are very good. If we have six weeks of sunny weather we’ll have a great vintage,” said Roman Roth, winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyards.

Ron Goerler, co-owner of Jamesport Vineyards, said the 2011 vintage will be made not in the vineyards, but by winemakers.

David Page, co-owner of Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck said just days ago that crews made three passes through his vineyard to clean damaged fruit — usually they make two in a good vintage. But on Friday with more rain forecast, he wrote in his weekly e-newsletter: “Nature continues to throw us curveballs, challenging us to find creative ways to eke out a healthy season of wine production. We'll now have to survive yet another rain event before we can start picking our estate fruit. …This is a vintage when a vineyard umbrella would come in mighty handy.”

andfurt September 25, 2011 at 07:40 AM
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