Samples at Lakewood VineyrdSeptember and October mark the harvest season here in the Finger Lakes and not surprisingly, “How’s harvest?” is one of the most popular questions we get at this time of year. We’d love to share a bit more about this exciting time at our wineries, so let’s go directly to them for some updates. You can see the variation around the lake and vineyards, it’s quite interesting!

Harvest Updates – Week of October 6th:

Chris King, Vineyard Manager at Atwater Estate Vineyards: “So far, we have brought in all the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, and some Chardonnay.   I think we will wait out this next stretch of weather and see how things look. Every thing is ripening well and is to a point where we could harvest and make good wine—now we are just trying to achieve optimal ripeness!  We have had some really good weather for flavor development. Warm days and cool nights are what the Finger Lakes does best. In between harvest we are doing some clean up projects—tearing out old vineyards, removing diseased fruit from blocks we have already picked, making sure all of our equipment is in good shape, and, of course, arranging the logistics for upcoming picks.”

Liz Stamp of Lakewood Vineyards: “We are just about 1/2 way done picking and that smell of fermenting juice is rich in the winery! The grapes look really good though the crop has been a bit light on most varieties so far. With a few rainy days our schedule has needed to be “fluid”.  We have picked a few vinifera varieties so far (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir) and will continue with Chardonnay slated next.”

Harvest Updates – Week of September 29th:

Hans Walter-Peterson at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station: “The pace of harvest has picked up in the Finger Lakes over the past week. Much of the Cayuga White in the area has been picked this week, including at our Teaching Vineyard in Dresden. We are also starting to see early picking of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and a couple of other varieties that are destined for sparkling wine production. Results from this week’s sampling run show that most varieties still are relatively high in acidity… so harvest for a number of these will likely wait for at least another week or more, meaning October will be a busy month in the vineyards and at the crush pads in the Finger Lakes. We have been fortunate so far this harvest when it comes to water. We have received about 50% of our monthly average rainfall for September this year, which has meant less pressure for fruit rot diseases like botrytis and sour rot. The biggest issue with disease so far this season continues to be downy mildew, which in some blocks is having a noticeable impact on the amount of functional leaf area, and therefore fruit ripening as well. In a few vineyards with substantial DM pressure, we are seeing a reduction in brix accumulation compared to healthier vineyards nearby.”

Harvest Updates – Week of September 22nd:

Natalee Carroll at Anthony Road Wine Company: “We kicked off the season on September 21 by picking Pinot Noir (for our sparking wine) early in the morning and then toasting glasses of Federweisser during our harvest kick off celebration that afternoon. This September weather, with cool nights and warm days, has helped the fruit obtain phenolic ripeness while maintaining fresh acidity. While we intend to let much of the fruit absorb what is left of this late summer sunshine, we will be harvesting some Vignoles this week and some Chardonnay (for sparkling) today with Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner looking ripe for the picking next week. 2019 is shaping up to be a beautiful vintage!”

Harvest at Atwater Estate VineyardsAimee Ellis at Atwater Estate Vineyards: “We began harvest September 24, with staff from the tasting room and office joining the winemakers and vineyard crew to hand-pick an acre of Grüner Veltliner. The grapes were planted three years ago, and this was their inaugural harvest. We’re very excited to see what Vinny and George do with these new-to-us grapes!”

Steven Fulkerson at Fulkerson Winery: “Early season varieties are in full swing with vinifera following closely behind. Our home wine making juice plant is officially through our first of 5 weeks offering over 30 varieties of juice to the do-it-yourselfer, or extreme wine enthusiasts. Crop levels are average or a little light, however it looks like quality and flavor development will be great for the 2019 vintage. Pick-your own and hiking opportunities also are available on our property for the 2019 season. It’s a great time to visit the Seneca Lake Wine Trail!”

Grapes ripening at Wagner VineyardsHarvest Update – Week of September 15th:

John Wagner, Co-Owner at Wagner Vineyards: “Our 2019 harvest officially began on September 2nd, which, ironically, was Labor Day – very fitting! To date, we are about ⅓ of the way through our harvest season and have harvested 558 tons of white hybrids and early red hybrid varieties. Many of these grapes were sold to other wineries in New York State, so we have kept the family that does our trucking very busy. Each tractor-trailer can carry approximately 23 tons per full load. The quality of the 2019 crop has been excellent with yields close to average. Our early vinifera varieties are very close to being ripe with Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot (Noir) due to be harvested very soon. We have begun some night and early morning harvesting in order to bring fruit into our winery at cooler temperatures. Harvesting in the dark presents some challenges, but getting the fruit at the desired temperature is well worth it. We just need to keep the coffee pot full!”

Harvest Updates – Week of September 8th:

Liz Stamp at Lakewood Vineyards: “While the weather this summer was quite nice, the late start has us still running late as far as grape ripening and being ready to pick. The condition of the grapes is looking good but this is when rains could be problematic due to potential for splitting in varieties that are close to ready. The deer are starting to eat the Pinot Noir so they must be getting tasty. This week we put deer fence around that vineyard so they don’t eat them all! Winemaker Chris Stamp sampled last week and again yesterday and said they are ‘coming along’ but he is watching closely for splitting.”

Nate Crawford in the vineyard at Three Brothers Winery

Nate Crawford, Vineyard Manager at Three Brothers Wineries & Estates: “On Friday, September 6th, the 2019 harvest officially began. We hand picked and pressed 1.8 tons of Gruner Veltliner for a new sparkling wine coming in 2020. It’s always hard to say how a harvest is going to go. So far we have a big crop of quality fruit, we’re hoping the weather stays ‘ok’ to help it ripen. Ideal weather conditions for ripening the grapes between now and October would be as warm as possible. Realistically this time of year I’d want 70 or 75 degrees. That’s warm enough to get some meaningful sugar accumulation. Minimal rain would help keep disease pressure down and let us hang the fruit longer on the vine. We always hope there is no early frost too!”

Chris King, Vineyard Manager at Atwater Estate Vineyards: “Although we have mostly moved through veraison, we are at least a week behind, if not more. The sugars are accumulating slowly, but it is interesting that the seed maturity looks to be ahead of expected based on the Brix. Certainly, we will not have an early harvest. Instead, we expect it will be late and compressed; however, the flavors and maturity of the fruit are poised to be very good. The weather is be good for ripening–warm but not too hot and dry. Hopefully this favorable stretch of weather continues.”

John Kaiser, Vineyard Manager at Fox Run Vineyards,“The grapes are certainly starting to develop, whites especially, Riesling and Chardonnay. We expect the sparkling harvest to start between Sept. 17-21, but that might change depending on their sugar level. We pick Chardonnay for our sparkling at 18.5 brix. During the 1 week period from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, the brix level for our Chardonnay that we’ll use for sparkling went from 12 to 14.8. Heat helps, sunshine helps. Rain is now our enemy.”