Merliance Says 2013 Is Banner Year for Long Island Red Wines

After getting off to a bumpy start, the 2013 wine grape growing season and harvest have proven to be Long Island’s best on record, according to Merliance, a coalition of East End vintners.

Anthony Nappa, the vice president of Merliance and the winemaker at Raphael in Peconic, says, “We had 50 days without any rain, which eliminated the disease pressure and allowed us harvest at our leisure and at each grape variety’s peak of ripeness. The wines look great already so this will be a great vintage on Long Island.”

“An epic vintage like this makes a winemaker even more inspired and enthusiastic,” says Roman Roth, the Merliance president and winemaker and partner at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. “The timing of the weather resulted in perfectly healthy and completely ripe and mature fruit. The flavor and sugar accumulation was at amazing levels across the board. However, the special part is the complete balance of a nice pH, acidity, spectacular color and concentrated fruit flavors.”

Throughout the spring, conditions were unfavorable for growers, according to Merliance. May and June were among the wettest on record and, as bud break approached, temperatures were uncharacteristically cool. The average grape cluster weight was below the long-term average.

However, July brought a heatwave that accelerated development.

“August was slightly cooler than normal but brought us day after day of brilliant sunshine, setting the stage for what turned out to become a fantastic vintage,” says Richard Pisacano, the vineyard manager at Wölffer. “I believe that no great vintage is possible on Long Island without a great August.”

September only saw 0.3 inches of rainfall the entire month, and ripening progressed rapidly, according to Merliance. Then October was its driest since 1963.

“The last time Long Island saw this little rain in October, the regions first vines weren’t even in the ground at Hargrave Vineyard,” says Russell Hearn, the  proprietor and winemaker at T’Jara Vineyards in Mattituck and technical director at in Mattituck’s Lieb Cellars.

Researchers Alice Wise and Libby Tarleton of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s viticulture program called the 2013 vintage “one that vineyard managers live for.”

“While we were certainly busy, the pace [of harvest] was a bit more relaxed than previous years and the delicious fruit made it really fun,” Wise says. “When things come together like that, it reinforces why we all are in this business.”

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