November was snowy and cold, maybe one of the coldest Novembers in the last 100 years. Wow: We hit 1 degree in the Fosterville vineyard the day after Thanksgiving. That’s cold for the mid-fall; remember, winter doesn’t start until the solstice on Dec. 21. Then, the Friday before Thanksgiving, we received over a foot of snow. I remember back in November 2016 that we had a major snowfall, so it’s not unheard of for the Finger Lakes. All that snow and cold has put us behind in some vineyard work. We normally cover up the grapevine graft union in the fall. Since most of our vines are grafted to a specific root stock suited for our soil, we need to protect the graft union from extreme cold. Some vineyards pull soil up around the graft area; this is called “hilling up.” The soil protects the graft during the winter and then, in the spring, the dirt is pulled back down away from the vine. Some vineyards use straw to accomplish the same thing, an insulating layer to protect the vines. So hopefully we see a little drying out in early December and we can get to work protecting the graft union before Old Man Winter really sets in.
Most of our winemaking from this year’s harvest is behind us, with the wines now aging in tanks and barrels. After several rackings through the winter, some wines will be ready for bottling in the spring, so winemakers can now start planning for next year. Other wines, especially dry reds that are barrel-aged, may not be ready until 2020 for bottling. We also start to prepare for wine seminars and conferences in the new year. Cornell’s B.E.V.N.Y. 2019 — Business, Enology and Viticulture of New York — will be in Rochester Feb. 27, and the Eastern Winery Exposition will be held this year in Syracuse March 19-21. We’ll get more information to you about these upcoming events in future columns.
Wineries saw a busy November in their tasting rooms, with visitors from all over traveling to and through the Finger Lakes. Well, Chanukah is here and Christmas is only a few weeks away, and before you know it, we’ll be celebrating the new year 2019. People will be looking for wines for their holiday dinners, parties and festivities. That’s where a trip to local Finger Lakes wineries can help you pick out wines for the holiday season. Taste several different types of wine while thinking about what you’re serving. Wine is a very personal choice, so do what you think is best. Here are a few ideas based on our personal experience and that of many of our winery customers:
• Before dinner, or with appetizers, a sparkling wine or a lighter style wine, possibly a rosé, can be a good choice. It gets the occasion started and isn’t too filling or heavy.
• Maybe with a first course or salad, a Riesling or chardonnay will work.
• For the main course, try cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chambourcin or a hardy red blend to accompany beef.
• If you’re having turkey, goose, chicken or duck, try pinot noir, Riesling or a rosé.
• For a vegan spread, try a lighter-style Riesling, pinot noir or frontenac.
• Desserts can be served with maybe a sweeter wine, port style, ice wine or a Concord-based wine.
With good wine, you really can’t go wrong, so taste and experiment and see what pleases your palate.
I’ll be back next year with more winemaking and grape-growing information from the Finger Lakes. Meanwhile, have a great holiday season, happy Chanukah, merry Christmas and a happy new year!