Friday, October 16, 2009

Allegro's Helrich: Maybe all my fears about the vintage will be for naught

Get wet these past couple of days? Or were you shoveling? It already feels like winter and it's only mid-October, this coming on the heels of what has been a spring through fall where the heavens have opened up more often than not. Sunny and dry? Hmmm. Trying to remember when.

That has put a lot of regional winemakers on the verge of a conniption. Carl Helrich of Allegro Vineyards down in The Brogue, in southcentral Pennsylvania, had a doom-and-gloom blog entry a few weeks ago. With the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon still hanging on the vines and the temperature parked around 40 degrees and rain pounding on the window, you'd think he was starting to panic. Instead, talking by telephone late yesterday afternoon, he sounded anything but anxious.

"The grapes are out there, I'm sure they're sucking up water," said Helrich, whose winery's extensive line of more than 30 wines leans fairly heavily toward dry reds and ranges in price from $11 to $35 (for the Cadenza, a Bordeaux blend). "But if we get a good week here of no rain, like they are calling for next week, all that [water] will work its way out again. Throughout all this . . . there's going to be some physiological development of the flavors and stuff in those berries. I'm a firm believer, we've gotta let that stuff hang to the bitter end. I've picked in November before, so if you have to do that, you do that."

Persistent rain like this year's can squeeze all the life out of a vintage, but Helrich's encouraged by the fact that there were still enough summer days where the temperature reached into the high 80s, "which is optimal for flavor development and color development. We had that throughout this summer. I've been preparing for the worst and preparing for the worst and I've haven't seen it yet in the tanks or the bins. That's the amazing thing. The whites are real nice, the aeromatics are just amazing on them. And the reds, we've got mostly just Merlot in right now, and the color's great . . . everything is coming together. All my stressing out for the last three months might have been for, worrying's not good for anything and I think I spent a lot of extra energy worrying about things that I didn't need to worry about."

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