July has brought us warm, humid weather, and more rain! At mid-month we have had about 4 inches of rain, following the 7-plus inches in June. This has made the vineyards very soggy and has promoted downy mildew growth. So enough already, Mother Nature! Downy mildew is a fungus that affects grapes and many garden vegetables. If unchecked, it can cause the grapevine leaves to wither, turn brown and fall off, eventually defoliating the vine. This in turn, can destroy the whole crop. So vineyard managers must be on top of their spray programs this summer, applying fungicides every 10 to 14 days.
Even with a good spray regimen, mildew can occur because of the warm, humid, wet weather. Despite all the rain in June, the “fruit set” (the flowers that actually turn into grape clusters) looks good. We are hanging a lot of fruit in the Fosterville vineyard, and are cleaning up the Owasco vineyard from the winter damage that occurred the last two years. Yesterday and today we did “leaf-pulling” and “shoot thinning.” Leaf-pulling is where we remove the leaves surrounding the grape clusters, and shoot-thinning is the removal of excess shoot growth in the canopy. This allows the sun to shine on the grape clusters, and promotes air circulation in the canopy, minimizing disease pressure. This is a good time of the year to do a crop estimate. The grape cluster is approximately 50 percent of its final harvest weight right now. We can double the current cluster weight, count the average number of clusters on each vine and multiply by the number of producing vines, and end up with a ballpark number of the crop size. This is important to know so we can estimate tank, barrel and yeast requirements for the upcoming harvest.
We bottled some of our 2013 cabernet Franc last week and are looking at some more of our 2013 dry reds for bottling thtoughout the summer. We will need the oak barrels they occupy for this year’s wine. We are also getting quotes to place orders for some new oak barrels for early September delivery. It is a very busy time in the winery preparing for the upcoming harvest and greeting lots of summer tourists from all over the United States.
For July, I spoke with the folks at King Ferry Winery in southern Cayuga County. Tacie and Pete Saltonstall started their vineyard in 1984 and opened King Ferry Winery in 1989. They grow chardonnay, Riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot noir, cabernet Franc, vignoles and vidal on 33 acres. The house specialty is barrel-fermented chardonnay, a delicious wine! King Ferry Winery also has a large presence in the New York City green markets, and has been at the Ithaca Farmers Market for the last 24 years. Besides daily tastings and tours, they have a great Labor Day event with wine, food and music coming up. Check it out; you can find them on the web at treleavenwines.com. Again, we are very fortunate to have world-class wines here in our own Cayuga County backyard!
During the hot humid summer weather we mostly think about white wines, and of course Finger Lakes Rieslings are great for summer meals, oaked white wines go well with shellfish. Rosé, a light-style red wine, is also a summer favorite, and don’t forget light reds, chilled slightly, pair up real well with barbecue fare. So get out and visit your local vineyards and wineries and enjoy their wines during our short summer season.