So far, May has been wet and on the cool side. The vines started showing signs of bud break the first week of the month, then things sort of went into a holding pattern as unseasonably cold weather arrived and lots of rain to go with it, and muddy vineyards, too! Now we are starting to see some leaf growth on the vines, and with a warmer forecast coming up, things should take off. Every year is a little bit different, but I guess that’s to be expected when you grow grapes in the Finger Lakes. The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be much winter kill, as we had only one subzero episode that I can remember.
On May 15, the Finger Lakes Grape Program, which is part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, had its annual spring integrated pest management meeting. Integrated pest management is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on common sense practices, such as scouting vineyards on a regular basis to see if any mildew, fungus or insects are harming the vines, using biological control, modifying cultural practices and planting resistant types of grapes. Pesticides are used with the goal of only removing the target organism, and in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial organisms and the environment. This year, the IPM meeting was held in Hammondsport at Doyle Vineyard Management, and probably over 100 people attended. They were mostly grape growers, educators from Cornell, a coordinator from the Network for Environment and Weather Applications and representatives from companies producing products to contain pest damage. There was a discussion about the spotted lanternfly, a dangerous invasive pest from Asia that has been found in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, which can devastate grape vineyards and apple orchards. There is currently a quarantined area in Pennsylvania established to prevent the spread of this bug. For more information about his bug, email visit dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html, and if you do see one in the Finger Lakes area, please report it to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. This is very important for all New Yorkers!
Wineries are in full swing into bottling, packaging wines produced from grapes of the last several vintages. Bottles come in many shapes and sizes; the “standard” size bottle is 750 milliliters, or about 25 ounces. Large bottles of 1.5 liters (50 ounces) are called magnums, and equal to two standard bottles. Then we have some wild-sounding names for larger bottles: Jeroboam is 4.5 liters (six standard bottles), Methuselah is 6 liters (eight standard bottles), Salmanazar is 9 liters (12 standard bottles), Balthazar is 12 liters (16 standard bottles), Nebuchadnezzar is 15 liters (20 standard bottles), and Melchior is 18 liters (24 standard bottles). These are names of Biblical kings and I’m not sure how this came about, but I guess it’s an interesting piece of trivia! We also have many different-shaped bottles, such as the tall, slender bottles that originated in the Mosel region of Germany and Alsace in France, which are used for Rieslings and other cool-climate wines. From the Burgundy region of France, a shorter bottle with curved sides was used for pinot noir and chardonnay, and from the Bordeaux area of France, a bottle with higher shoulders was used for red wine blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. Much of this is tradition, but today you can find all sorts of different wines in many different-shaped bottles. We are also seeing wine packaged in boxes and cans to suit all sorts of consumer tastes and requirements. This time of year, wineries are getting their rosé wines into bottles and cans for the upcoming summer season. Rosés have become more popular over the last few years. These are not the “white zinfandels” of yesteryear, but a drier style that can be very light in color or somewhat darker. A rosé is an excellent choice for warmer weather, providing a bit more body than a white wine, but not the heaviness or alcohol of a big red wine. They work well fish, poultry, summer salads, fresh fruits and cheeses.
So now that the warm weather is finally here, get out and taste some Finger Lakes wines, and see what appeals to you!