The 2013 vintage season marked the 40th anniversary of Long Island winemaking and it began like so many others before – with cold temperatures and lots of rain. Breaking with the early warming trend of the past few seasons, the buds opened up around the historical norm of May 1st and grew slowly during the first weeks of the spring. June remained cool and brought a record amount of rainfall leading to a dubious start to the vintage. The real heat didn’t arrive until the end of June and continued throughout the entire month of July. High temperatures accompanied by turbulent weather patterns and sporadic rains had vineyard crews scrambling to keep up. In spite of the July heat, we were still behind previous years in heat accumulation (GDD) and winemakers were bracing for a challenging end to the season. Then as if someone flipped a switch, the weather changed completely. The rain diminished, temperatures dropped and clear blue skies became more common. By the end of August we were looking at a potentially good harvest. A truly great vintage seemed like a long shot but there was still a slight chance – as long as it didn’t rain anymore. This is something we wish for in every vintage - but this was the year it actually happened. From past experience and weather data we know that the greatest Long Island vintages occur when the combined rainfall in August, September and October is less than 10 inches. All the best seasons have followed this rule. By the end of August, with less than a few inches on the books, our cautious optimism began to grow.
It’s best to pick ripe fruit before a prolonged rain when color, aroma and flavor are at their most concentrated. As rain approached and our anxiety grew, we were both relieved and amazed to see the storm fronts break up and disappear, leaving us with beautiful weather for days on end and longer hang time for the fruit. The sun continued to shine brightly and with healthy leaves working at full capacity, the vines soaked it all in sending tons of sugar to the fruit. In September our vineyards in Cutchogue collected a total of one inch of rain and in October essentially none at all.
During harvest, the sun stayed out and the rain stayed away. Every day was joyful as we unloaded basket after basket of beautifully ripe grapes and celebrated their delicious perfection. It was as if some heavenly force was keeping away all the rain clouds. Each day was better than the next – not a cloud in the sky, warm temperatures and not a drop of rain in sight. The results were dramatic. By the time October was over, all of our fruit was inside the winery – all of it harvested without a drop of rain. It was an extraordinary end to a vintage – the ultimate come-back season which Michael Lynne dubbed our “Lucky 13.”
The 2013 vintage showed the profound importance of solar radiation. It was the ability of the sun to continuously radiate down upon our vines - unimpeded by cloud cover - that shifted the momentum of the season. I’ve seen this before – but in reverse – in years like 2003 and 2011 when we had lots of heat but also lots of clouds. The quantitative measurement of solar radiation is something I think we need to pay more attention to in the future.
From what I’m tasting in the tanks and barrels, 2013 will go down as one of the finest vintages the North Fork has ever seen – ranking right up there with 2007 and 2010. It was truly a magical run and we will be enjoying these wines for many years to come. From whites to reds, all the wines are singing out and showing their full colors. In fact, it reminds me of a song…