I think I know how Noah felt. I only hope he packed a couple casks of wine along with all those animals to help him get through the rain.
The rain that has besieged the East Coast this week is very depressing for winegrowers. Mother Nature has hit them with a one-two punch: the right uppercut of Hurricane Irene, followed by the lumbering left hook of Tropical Storm Lee. Just as grapes are being harvested, we haven’t seen the sun for four days, and the forecasts call for more rain on Friday before the skies will finally clear.
This is why wine growing in the Eastern United States can be so frustrating. Over the next several weeks, I will report on how regional vintners are coping with this nasty harvest weather, their immediate measures, and how the rest of the grapes fare after the skies (hopefully) clear.
On Wednesday, Boordy Vineyards was harvesting seyval blanc at its home vineyard in Baltimore County, Maryland. Crews used an “air blast sprayer” to blow water off the grapes before harvesting them, pausing whenever a rain squall came by, said Boordy owner Rob Deford.
Boordy’s red grapes, which are in the second harvest after an ambitious replanting project aimed at improving quality, are further west, on South Mountain west of Frederick. This area escaped much impact from Irene, but has been deluged by the slow-moving remnants of Lee. The silver lining here, of there can be one, is that these grapes are still several weeks from harvest.
“I am hoping that we have earned a few weeks of sunshine, and that the reds can continue to ripen,” Deford said in an e-mail. “Their foliage is sound thanks to Ron’s meticulous management,” he said, referring to vineyard manager Ron Wates. “Since we normally pick them in late October, there’s still time for a course correction.”
When I asked about the effects of Irene, Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, near Front Royal in Virginia, said the first storm was beneficial for bringing light rain to his heat-stressed vines. But as this week’s rains began, Law brought in his sauvignon blanc from the Avenius vineyard, a little earlier and wetter than he would have liked. “There is good flavor and balance, no rot, but obviously dilute,” Law wrote.
For the rest of the season? “Rot will be the big factor for the future of the harvest,” Law said. “We will know where we stand next week. Bummer.”
For more on Hurricane Irene’s effects on Virginia and Maryland, see my update on The Washington Post’s “All We Can Eat” blog, with a comment from Jeff White of Glen Manor Vineyards about the storms’ potential effects.