Winemaker Harvest Report 2012
November 8, 2012–Winemaker Paul Brock reflects on the 2012 growing season and harvest in the Finger Lakes.
Generally, The Finger Lakes grape growing region dodged a bullet earlier in the season. At Silver Thread we actually had budburst on a small percentage of vines in March! There have been only three previous years here where there was budburst in April. While not every Finger Lakes vineyard had active growth in March, the advanced stage of development made every vineyard vulnerable. By the end of April there was active growth everywhere, and then the cold came. Sites well situated to take advantage of the warming effects of the Lakes suffered less. The further up away from the lake you got, the more damage you saw.
Around the end of May through early August there was very little measurable rainfall and lots of sunshine. Sites that do not have deep soils with a lot of water availability definitely saw some water stress after fruit set. Very few vineyards are set up with irrigation. Silver Thread managed through this drought by dumping water on our most vulnerable vineyard with a tow-behind tanker. This got us up to veraison when we finally saw some rain.
After veraison we saw another month of dry, hot (for our region) weather and ample sunshine before harvest. For our lower vineyard, where we irrigated with the tanker, there was noticeable drought stress during this time. However, the grapes were able to get ripe early.
Harvest for most varieties was at least a week or two ahead of 2011. In fact, this is probably the earliest year for all varieties on the whole. While most Finger Lakes vineyards were down slightly for the year, Silver Thread actually saw a slight increase in per-acre tonnage… We averaged about 2.0 tons per acre overall across all varieties. For us, this was good progress on our way toward a sustainable vineyard yield. Yield was unreasonably low under the previous owner’s management.
Generally the amount of heat we saw during ripening decreased the acids faster to lower levels at harvest than most people are used to. Also, the sunlight increased the sugars to very high levels for the calendar date when harvest occurred. High sugars, low acid is kind of the mantra for the Finger Lakes in 2012.
The quality of red grapes from our own vineyard and most others seems to be very high. The red wines were very ripe with color and flavors that have probably never been seen here. I will go out on a limb and say the quality of our white wines are average to good. Riper flavors are going to be coupled with a loss of some of our signature aromatics. Chardonnay probably fared better quality wise than the aromatic whites: Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer, while varietally correct, looks to lack a bit of intensity that might be seen in cooler, less sunny years. Riesling should be good, but will show more ripe flavors in the finished wine without the naturally high acidity that we are used to in the Finger Lakes.
Overall, I am please with the quality of our Silver Thread wines. It is still early, and I look forward to watching these wines develop over the next year to see how this unusual season (aren’t they all) stamped its mark onto the wines.
In comparison to 2010 (which is fresh on everyone’s mind), in 2012 we really lacked the water that was available to the vines during the growing season of 2010. In 2010 it was sunny every day, and rained nearly every night. Nobody remembers the rain because they were sleeping. In 2012 it was sunny all the time, but didn’t rain consistently. Sites with irrigation or lots of available water in the soil will show less differences in the finished wines when compared to 2010.