What a difference a month makes! In last month’s column, I talked about the wet, cool summer. Every month had more rainfall than normal years. Then came September. Wow, the heat that we missed all summer suddenly came on strong. We had a week of 80-degree-plus temperatures, then we had some 90-plus temperatures. The warm sunny weather in September and early October really saved the 2017 vintage! We are now almost in a mini-drought situation, but that is better than the cool, wet weather we experienced earlier this year.

The heat has caused the grapes to ripen, increasing the brix levels (sugar content) and decreasing the acid, all of which is good for winemakers. Early-ripening grapes such as Cayuga white, baco noir, marquette and pinot noir have already been picked. Next to harvest will be chambourcin, Frontenac and Riesling, and then later in October we will pick our cabernet franc. I expect if the weather holds out, we will be done before Halloween. Then the winemaking process will continue throughout the fall and winter, and into the spring. Fermentation can take between a week and several months depending on the yeast, temperature and fermentation technique of the winemaker. Typically, white wines are fermented at lower temperatures over a longer timeframe, and reds are fermented hot and fast. Again, this all depends on the winemaker’s preference and the style of wine they are making.

The research and development market order I wrote about in last month’s column that was put to a ballot was not approved by New York state grape growers. The voting was very close, so I’m not sure what the future is.

In the winery, it’s been winemaking and more winemaking — first with Cayuga white grapes, then pinot noir from the lake vineyard, then a small lot of Riesling from our Fosterville vineyard. Our new American oak barrels arrived at the end of September and we will use them for both this year’s chambourcin and cabernet franc. One ton of red grapes will yield approximately three 59-gallon oak barrels of wine. We like to use a brand new barrel, a 3-year-old barrel and a 5-year-old barrel for fermentation and aging, and then we blend the three barrels together before bottling. This is a personal preference for achieving a nice balance of fruit flavor and oak in our dry red wines.

We saw a record number of visitors in our tasting room in September. Wine drinkers from all over the country are out in force, and from what we’ve seen, people are generally upbeat about the economy. That’s good news for the Finger Lakes tourism and agribusinesses.

October is a perfect time to visit Finger Lakes wineries. You’ll see grape harvesting and winemaking going on in almost every vineyard and winery. Winemaking produces some fantastic aromas in the winery; once you smell it, you’ll never forget it. So take some time to enjoy this early fall weather and visit a local winery, and taste some perfection in the glass!

Chris Scholomiti is co-owner and winemaker at CJS Vineyards & Aurelius Winery, located at 6900 Fosterville Road, Aurelius. Our tasting room is open for the season Saturdays and Sundays in April through December, or by appointment. For more information, questions or comments about the column or wine and grape-growing in the Finger Lakes, email wine@cjsvineyards.com, call (315) 730-4619 or find the winery on Facebook.

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