Monday, September 8, 2008

Fridays Creek drying out, set to bottle reds

The early assessment from at least one regional winery is that Hanna’s cloudbursts on Saturday did no more than take away a harvest day and spoil some events that were planned.

Frank Cleary Sr. of Maryland’s
Fridays Creek Winery in Owings, Md., said yesterday afternoon the storm that swept through Saturday morning didn’t produce the damaging winds that were feared and that the rain, while substantial, should have little effect on the quality of the harvest.

“We were pretty thankful,” he said. “We had picked quite a bit [already] but we did jump in and pick in advance of the rain and we probably didn’t have to. I mean, it was OK, we could have let it hang. Now we probably will lose a little bit of
Brix on the sugar content. We’re going to check it tomorrow [Monday] and see if any of it dropped down a little on what’s still hanging.”

That there’s so little left to pick off the vines doesn’t mean anyone at the winery has found a cot to enjoy the cool, sunny days forecast for the rest of the week after tomorrow’s cold front moves through. Cleary said they’ll soon start bottling their reds, including a red estate wine they call Rubilee. This is the third year they’ve bottled the hybrid grape, a high producer developed by Cornell under the original name of GR7. They made a very small batch out of the 2005 harvest and made a little more out of the ’06 crop. Cleary said they might get around 25 cases out of the ’07 juice that has been aging about a year and, continuing the trend, could fill around 100 cases next year with what they’ve just picked off the vine.

Cornell came up with the name of Rubiana for the grape, but told Fridays Creek that “we couldn’t use that name. So that’s where we came up with Rubilee as an alternative," Cleary said. “It’s a heavy red; it probably would make an excellent port . . . but that’s not what we’re doing [with it] now.” Asked to compare it to a wine readers might recognize, he said it’s “closer to the local hybrid Chambourcin [than anything else].”

This one ages about a year, as long as the rest of Fridays Creeks reds. “Sometime you can pull them out a little earlier depending on whether it’s a brand new oak barrel or whether it’s been used once before,” he said. “Basically putting it in oak, you’re looking for the oak flavor. It would age just as well in steel. But it wouldn’t have the oak flavor.”

You’ll be able to sample, if I may, the fruit of their labor at Saturday’s open house, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two 2007 wines that will be offered for tasting are the 2007 Seyval Blanc and the 2007

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