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Long Island's wineries are nearing completion of the 2002 harvest, and the warm growing season has them feeling upbeat.
"We are in the midst of yet another spectacular vintage on Long Island," said Richard Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Raphael. "This marks the third year in a row we are seeing terrific weather for the ripening of our grapes."
The summer was hot in New York, and Long Island counted 29 days with 90-plus degree temperatures, according to Paumanok Vineyards owner Charles Massoud. Seasons with a half-dozen such days are considered normal for Long Island.
"The drought and the heat stressed the vines beyond what we were accustomed to," said Massoud. "This resulted in a smaller crop. We hope this will translate into a greater flavor intensity."
While the summer weather was favorable for grapegrowing, Kip Bedell, winemaker at Bedell Cellars, said, "The fall has been a little problematic, with occasional rains. But we've been able to work around it."
Currently, following a rainy weekend, the weather is cooperating. At Peconic Bay Winery, the Merlot still hanging on the vine "looks like it will have time to shed any excess water it picked up last month during the dry week ahead of us," said general manager Matt Gillies.
White varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier have mostly all been picked, with growers now focusing on their later-ripening red varieties, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. That's early for a region that typically harvests into November.
Raphael has already crushed some red varieties. Olsen-Harbich noted the effect of the early harvest: "Consequently, we are seeing much lower than normal acid levels and extremely soft musts, which should correlate into very supple, fat red wines."
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