Note: this article was written about a hurricane that hit the area in 2015, but the overall points are still relevant, IMO.
The challenges of growing wine on the East Coast lie mainly with unpredictability. Unlike California, we never know what the weather is going to do.
It’s weekends like the first of October 2015, in the middle of the harvest season, when several days of incessant rain and then, a freakin’ hurricane (!) imposes itself on us, that this becomes abundantly clear.
“This year had all the potential to be a magnificent vintage,” Karamoor’s Kevin Robinson told me recently. “Throughout September and up until this week we’ve had warm days, cool nights, low humidity… Ideal ripening conditions, but this week reminded me I was still in PA and not back in CA!”
Though Karamoor had already harvested all their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, the reds remained on the vine. But when rain like this comes to town, measures must be taken. “Most of the Merlot was on the cusp of readiness, for example. but some needed more time,” he said. “With its thinner skins, however, it is susceptible to rot, so it had to come off.”
Anthony Vietri of Va La, who’s seen a few more East Coast Autumns than Robinson, had a more matter-of-fact response. “I’m not worried. Not really. These are the kind of conditions that we expect and prepare for every year.”
In other words, it is what it is, and there’s nothing we can do about it but adjust and go with it.
So when you’re huddled under the covers this weekend, and you hear that howling wind outside, take a moment to think about these winemakers and what they’re going through every season to try to change the perception of PA wine.
Perhaps Robinson summed it up best: “We’ll still make some very nice wines, but oh, what could’ve been!”
photo by Jason DeRusha