Harvest 2012 is over and what a year it was! A year that started early and ended early with ripeness levels not seen since the great vintage of 2010. All varieties came in extremely ripe and flavorful – from the Chardonnay to the Petit Verdot - we have bold and beautiful melodies coming from every tank. With the exception of a few blocks of late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, most all of the fruit on the North Fork has been harvested. For the past three years in row, Long Island vineyards have finished harvesting fruit before the end of October – something that in the previous 20 years was unheard of. Is this a new trend for our region going forward?
There’s no question that our climate is changing – we are seeing earlier starts to our season, hence earlier ripening times. This is nothing new in the wine world as vintners from around the globe have discussed seeing this same trend for years in Europe, especially in the cool climate areas of France, Germany and Northern Italy. I think it’s generally a good thing for us as a wine producing district; the more time we have for ripening the higher the quality our fruit will be. As in all things relating to making wine however, time will give us the answers.
Another interesting phenomenon we witnessed this season is the increasing importance of ultraviolet (UV) light penetration. We saw almost identical levels of warmth (calculated as Growing Degree Days) in 2012 as we did in 2011 – but the two years couldn’t be more different from each other. While the reds from 2011 showed themselves to be more delicate and less extracted, the 2012 reds generated higher sugar levels and are already showing much more intensity and power. The difference? - 2012 had a far greater number of clear sunny days than 2011, as well as much less rain. During the growing season (March 1st – Oct 31st) of 2011, we accumulated about 35 inches of rain - in 2010 we had 28 inches. As of Oct 24th, 2012 has seen about 25 inches of rain – the lowest of the three. The lesson here? Great vintages are not always about heat but the confluence of heat, sunlight and dry weather that lead to truly extraordinary wines. We had enough of all three this season and the quality in the tanks shows.
The season took off in early April after a mild, almost non-existent winter. The vines grew quickly and the sunlight and heat worked together, bringing some fruit to maturity as early as September 1st. The cool and dry days of late September and early October allowed the fruit to race across the finish line, with sugars rising quickly and maturity levels advancing rapidly by the day. Some days the grapes seemed to jump out and sing to us that they were ready. The final reds were picked in a fury, with our crew working hard to avoid the oncoming rains. The results were amazing and now we can take care of the bubbling wines inside our tanks and barrels over the next several months.
I want to give hearty congratulations to our vineyard and cellar crew who handled this harvest as smoothly and efficiently as any I’ve ever seen. They endured long hours, cold wet conditions and grueling work day after day in order to get all of our fruit inside the winery. It takes a lot of hard work (as well as lots of coffee) to make great wines. Our labors will no doubt be rewarded when these wines are released and the quality of the vintage makes itself known.
I'm so excited about the wines we have in the tanks right now. The whites are full of vibrant aromatics and zesty acidity, the roses are lush and flowery with waves of saline minerality and the reds are dark, bold, and velvety, with lovely savory, gravelly depth and lots of earthy spiciness. All of them sing loud and clear and represent what the North Fork can do best – and I can’t wait for you to try them.
In the meantime, if you’d like to get a feel for what the 2012 wines will be like, close your eyes and listen to this...