Monday, September 1, 2008

Woodhall challenge heads to Gertrudes

Among the number of items covered in the Woodhall Wine Cellars newsletter for September was this one on the Eat In Season challenge:

Next up, the Eat In Season challenge moves to Gertrudes at the BMA, located in the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Museum Drive, Baltimore, where Woodhall has Gunpowder Falls White and Gunpowder Falls Red on the wine list. A special Farmstead Dinner menu will be featured Sept. 16-21. The main ingredient of each course is sourced locally. Experience it – we will! For reservations, call 410.889.3399.

Hanna's path starting to look ominous

While the country's eyes today follow the path of Hurricane Gustav, another tropical system is beginning to catch the attention of grape growers throughout this entire region. Hanna was upgraded to a hurricane earlier today and seems bound for the East Coast, with its eventual destination being somewhere in the mid-Atlantic region. It's still five to six days and hundreds of miles from here, but just the fact that the National Weather Service is showing a projected track that takes it in this direction is worrisome for winery proprietors and winemakers who who are girding for the three to five weeks of harvesting that will start this week.

It's been a fine growing season to date; not perfect, perhaps a bit cooler than last year. But it has remained fairly dry throughout the region and a continuation of that pattern for another few weeks would have capped another better than average vintage.

In some cases you can spot the vintages that fell short by the harvests waylaid by a tropical system that had long since blown itself out but remained laden with rain. One recent year that won't be forgotten anytime soon was 2003, when Henri and Isabel dumped torrents of rain across the region in early and mid September. In general, that harvest was a disaster.

I sent a note earlier this afternoon to several wineries asking how much attention they were giving Hanna. So far, I heard from Brad Knapp at
Pinnacle Ridge Winery in Kutstown, Pa. I'll post his comment, and any others that follow tonight and tomorrow.

"I'm checking projected paths of both hurricans about 4-5 times daily trying to figure out where their going to head. Hannah looks like it has a reasonable probability of hitting us towards the begining to middle of next week. We may try and grab some of our fruit for sparkling wine prior to the rain hitting.

"Heavy rains at this point in the season obviously dilute the fruit but cause splitting and rots and mildews. We really would like for these storms to miss us. As of right now the harvest looks fantastic for us. We're dry and hot and the fruit is beautiful."

Anthony Vietri, Va La Vineyards, Avondale, Pa.
"I'll keep an eye on it to be sure, but tend to see fall tropical systems and three day rain events as just par for the course in these parts. We don't really have anything ready enough to strip off before the weekend, so not much for me to think about."

Rob Deford, Boordy Vineyards, Hydes, Md.
"We watch the weather very closely this time of year, but do not pull the harvest trigger unless there is an absolute threat like a hurricane or severe hail, which might destroy the crop. Heavy rains can dilute the sugars and acids, so we would need to wait for the fruit to recover before picking."

Carl Helrich,
Allegro Vineyards, The Brogue, Pa.
"I am paying close attention to it. I have a couple hybrid varieties close to being ready to pick, and may need to back them off till after the water works its way back out of them. Most vinifera are still a ways off, although our Pinot is at 19 Brix already. I am watching the tendency this year is going to have for spawning more hurricanes than normal. Keeping my fingers crossed and saying the standard prayers. We're on a dynamite year so far, and if we can just get these hurricanes to miss us this next month, we have a year to rival 2007 and 1995 and 1991. The grapes right now have really advanced flavorand sugar levels while still retaining acid. Amazing stuff. We'll just hope for the best and plan accordingly."

Chris Carroll, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, Washington Crossing, Pa.
"We always have our eyes riveted on the weather forecasts at this time of the year. The effects are so unpredictable. The rain is one thing. Winds are another.
"We will be starting to check the sugar levels of the whites this week and will be weighing risk vs ripeness. We will also be in close contact with our growers and making these same decisions.
"Winemakers have a tendency to push the risk part a bit more, always hoping for better grape quality. Growers only are more likely to pull the fruit short of optimal ripeness in order not to jeopardize their crops.
"The storm names may be different each year, but the balancing act is the same."