By John Leo, Winemaker
The winter was very cold and long, pushing almost into May, and leading to a later than usual bud break. But then the winds shifted, warm weather arrived, and flowering came more or less on time in June. What seemed to be destined to be a late harvest, now gave us hope for normality. Summer once again brought lots of sun, very few rainy days, and steady warm temperatures keeping the vines healthy and progressing toward a strong veraison. Not just healthy clusters, but BIG clusters. September came as a gift — dry, sunny and warm with the nights cooling off enough to keep the grapes disease-free and steadily ripening. By the time the passing storms of October arrived the cool temperatures and strong winds kept the grapes clean and hearty. We brought in very tasty chardonnay in early October and merlot in mid October. The larger crop on the cabernet franc vines needed more time to fully ripen. They came in sweet and flavorful in early November. So it ended up being a late vintage after all... but one worth waiting for.
After a wonderful 2012 we knew not to expect more gifts from the weather gods so soon. And when the spring came slowly and May trudged along in a damp and cool funk we thought we knew what we were in for. In the first two weeks of June, right before flowering, we had two major rain storms. The year was going from bad to worse. Boy were we wrong. From the beginnings of June until the end of October we experienced unbelievably good weather. Sunny and dry conditions during fruit set-- with the exception of two quickly passing thunderstorms that actually did affect the merlot yield a bit-- led to a plentiful crop load. A hot spell in July brought the vine canopy to early fullness, then a mildly hot August kept the canopy photosynthesizing at a perfect rate. When September started dry and sunny with some cooling off in the nighttime we were pleased. When it continued that way we were amazed. And when October continued the dry, mild, cool trend we were truly grateful. A vintage as good as 2013 is a rare and wonderful thing.
This was a remarkable vintage in several ways. A mild winter led to a very warm April which provoked the wines into the earliest bud break we've ever witnessed on the North Fork. A fast start to the season is great, but the concern then becomes the likelihood of spring frosts damaging that early growth. We had just enough of a frost in early May to scare us, and to repress some cluster formations. This led to a smaller than average crop. Then we had a sunny, very warm summer that led right into the fall. Great grape vine weather, leading to some of the earliest maturing chardonnay, merlot and cab franc in our history. The combination of small crop and hot weather led to an extremely sweet, flavorful harvest. If only we had more of such ripe grapes.
A snowy winter and extended chill kept the vines dormant into May, and it took most of another month before the season began to warm up. June was turbulent with sun and rain alternating; the vines managed to set fruit in between the raindrops, and when the summer heated up we felt that we were on track for a “normal” year. When September came we got pounded by nearly weekly rainstorms and the ripening process struggled. Chardonnay resisted disease and came in clean, just lower in natural sugars than normal, making for a lighter style. We chose not to make a barrel fermented chardonnay this year. We made a first pass to further reduce the crop load on the red vines and produce a rose wine... and waited out the rest of the season into late October to harvest some, but not many, plump and juicy cab franc and merlot. Overall, a challenging, but successful vintage.
Winter was cold and hard, but gave way to a surprisingly mild late March and April. This brought the vines out of dormancy early and gave us the earliest bud break In LI wine history. The spring was warm, with occassional showers, and unlike in 2009, the flowering period was blessed with sun and heat, allowing for a good fruit set. The summer was hot and humid, with periods of rain — overall one of the warmest seasons ever. This led to grapes ripening early and quickly during September. Of course continued humidity and warm nights put pressure on vineyard managers to protect the clusters from fungus and rot. Our team was up to the task and we harvested healthy and flavorful crops of chardonnay, merlot and cabernet franc nearly two weeks ahead of historical normal. The sun and heat made for the best vintage since 2007.
After a frigid, snowy winter and long chilly early spring, we finally received sun and warmth in late May and early June. This allowed for chardonnay and other early varieties to flower normally. The merlot and cab franc were delayed in flowering until late June when another uncomfortaable spell of cool, gray wet weather settled upon us. This was very bad timing, causing most clusters in the red varieties to abort. So while the vines remained healthy, they carried very few berries — so little that we could see by the middle of the summer that there would not any viable crop. After a reasonable summer, the fall gave us more rain than we needed and less warmth than we deserved. The chardonnay handled the adverse conditions well and gave us a tangy and tasty harvest. On the other hand our entire red harvest consisted of about a ton and a half of grapes acceptable only for a light and pleasant rose wine. This was a vintage of light and white... and to look beyond for another chance at rich reds.
This year takes the cake for “where did that come from” challenging. Just as the winter alternated between stormy snow and spring-like thaws, the rest of the growing season also kept us guessing. There was an early bud break, then a very rare — and luckily limited — May frost. We lost a few buds, but it could have been much worse. May continued chilly, then came hotter than normal temperatures in June, allowing the vines to make up for lost time. Then unfortunately timed rain storms interfered with flowering, leading to fewer berries per cluster and the constant threat of lurking disease. There were several isolated hail storms during the summer doing substantial damage to the west side of the vines that they hit, leaving most clusters whole and some visibly bruised. This increased the chance that fungus and rotting issues would follow us all the way to the day of harvest. September started with humidity and rainstorms forcing even more attention to cleaning the canopy. Finally we had an extended, and very welcome period of clear, sunny, mild weather to lead us into October and our earliest ever harvest of merlot and cabernet. Crop quantity was way down, but after such a difficult season our persistence and selective hand harvesting led to surprisingly ripe, flavorful grapes.
This was a season of almost magical excellence. Winter was relatively mild with some cold spells but no damaging weather. A warming trend in April was a sign that the growing season was going to be warmer and sunnier than usual. Even though bud break occurred at the normal time in May, early growth was fast and consistent due to above average temperatures. And that trend continued all the way into the fall, giving us healthy vines and great flavor potential. There was plentiful rain, mostly in brief, drenching storms amidst the many periods of sunshine throughout the summer into October. When the temperatures began to fall and the sun continued to shine we saw our grapes ripen evenly and thoroughly. Chardonnay was hand harvested in early October. Merlot, cabernet franc and syrah were also hand picked under ideal conditions, and there was plenty of season left to ripen cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. 2007 was a vintage to remember and savor.
A relatively mild winter and early spring led to a good bud break and early season growth.
May and June traded rain with warm sun and led to good development. Just as the vines were flowering in mid June a couple of days of storms interrupted, causing a loss of flowers and a resulting looser, lighter cluster. This also meant we could expect a smaller yield of fruit than normal. A warm, then hot dry summer sped up the maturing process on the vines, so even with a relatively humid and cool fall the grapes continued to ripen. The chardonnay from the over twenty years old Herricks Lane vineyard were hand harvested at the end of September with moderate sugar levels, but firm, succulent flavors. October was kind, allowing us to hang some of the red grapes into early November when they were picked looking somewhat straggly and shriveled, but full of ripe flavors.
A slight cool early spring gave way to excellent growing conditions from late May through September. Thee was plenty of heat and sun, and timely rainstorms. We reached October thinking that we were witnessing the greatest vintage in Long Island history... The chardonnay was harvested tasting sweet and luscious. We looked forward to the perfectly ripening merlot and cabernet franc. And then came ten straight days of gray drizzle and thick rain. The nearly ripe red grapes withstood the storms bravely, but eventually, with their delicately mature skins started developing sour rot. As the rains continued day after day we watched the clusters begin to fail. As soon as the weather cleared we rushed in to harvest and select out the ripe fruit. While we lost a sizable amount of fruit we were able to bring in grapes of surprisingly good flavor. With careful wine making attention and techniques we are confident that the promise of the nearly perfect 2005 vintage was captured in these wines.
A warm and sunny spring gave us a good start to the season. The canopy filled out quickly and flowering in mid June came amidst a heat spell that brought passing showers. That pattern of sun, heat and rain storms continued throughout the summer and into September. Not a bad patten as long as we're aware of the mounting vine disease pressures it carries. After a torrential storm in late September, the first ten days of October were beautifully sunny and the rest of the month mild. This allowed the grapes to ripen flavors and resist botrytis. Extra cluster thinning up until harvest reduced the amount of fruit, but ensured clean pure flavors. Chardonnay yielded a small, but delicious crop. Merlot from the same vineyard was picked a couple of weeks later, full of color and taste. Our new vineyard also produced its first crop of merlot and cabernet franc — a bit lighter in flavor, but successful nonetheless.
The 2003 growing season began with unseasonably cool, wet weather. These gray damp days lowered our expectations for the vintage down to around ankle level. But then after muddling through a slightly less drizzly June, the clouds broke up and summer came on in force. July and August were hot and sunny and very welcome. Then came a warm, mild September gliding into an equally fine October and life didn't seem nearly as bleak. Chardonnay was picked — late but clean — in early October with abundant fruit flavor. Merlot was harvested toward the end of the month, giving us much to be thankful for.