Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pennsylvania Growers Think 2011 Will Be Excellent Vintage

Area winemakers see a promising vintage
Written by ERIC RUTH
The News Journal

Up and down the state, this summer's fiery sun has been baking farm fields into stone. The rows of drooping crops thirst for rain, and the farmers hold faint hope that the skies will bring salvation.

Yet among the gnarled vines of the wineries that speckle the countryside here and in nearby Pennsylvania, growers see that fierce sun as a savior, and welcome the dry days. The brutal heat and parched soil are the perfect ingredients for a crop that's rich and sweet, for wines that are deep and lush.

"Right now, things are going well, and if we keep up with the weather as it is, it should be as good as 2010, which was a great harvest," said Caryn Dolan, manager of public relations and special events at Paradocx Vineyard in Landenberg, Pa.
It will be a year or two in the barrel before they find how well all those happy grapes transform into wine, and the region's capricious weather means there's still plenty of room for a disaster -- from soggy soil and bursting grape skins to hungry birds and heavy hailstorms.

"So far, it's been wonderful, but we're in by far the most important stretch," said Anthony Vietri, proprietor of Va La Vineyards in nearby Avondale, Pa. "The next six to eight weeks are going to determine the quality of the harvest. ... So what we do is prepare for the worst all the time."

In these parts, a grower's task can quickly be complicated by the fickle mid-Atlantic weather, which is literally a continent away from the consistent climate of America's premier wine-growing region, California's Napa Valley. Here, farmers spend their days plucking and trimming plants to allow air and sunlight to circulate, tipping their tops this way and that to favor a certain exposure. They carefully keep the bunches from touching; they pull the leaves from around each cluster; they tend to every plant, every bunch, day in and day out.

"There's almost nothing to do" once the vines are up and growing in Napa, Vietri said.

"Here, we have almost constant hand manipulation to keep the canopies open and expose it to sunlight."

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