The Hamptons Wine Region
Driving the back roads of the Hamptons in the fall the colors are brilliant oranges and yellows with green counterpoints of the remaining leaves in the vineyards. The air is starting to show a coolness that presages the coming winter. The rich blue skies form a regal backdrop for workers moving through the rows of trellised grape vines as they reap the year’s bounty. It is harvest time in the on the South Fork of Long Island.
The summer resort of the wealthy from New York City, the Hamptons is not frequently thought of as an agrarian region. At harvest, however, farm stands line the main artery of New York Route 25, displaying their wares of sweet orchard fruits, rich orange pumpkins, yellow and green gourds, and multi-colored flowers. As the oil covered sun worshipers have returned to Gotham the region reverts to its former demeanor as a rustic farming district. One becomes aware of the fields of tan drying corn stalks and naked pumpkin and potato patches that line the road.
A long and gentle Indian summer graced the cool wet 2009 growing season. The aromatic varietals of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Tocai Friulano are already in their steel fermenting tanks beginning the magic of turning from sweet grape juice into wine. Field hands are filling bight yellow tubs with Chardonnay grapes to bring them to the crush pads. The presses force the pale essence from the clusters into awaiting catch pans. The gentle November weather has allowed vineyard managers to let the Merlot continue to hang on the vines in hopes of increased complexity, concentration, and a few more tenths of a point on their Brix meters. Holding out for a chance of just a little more flavor, just a little more depth, just a little more precious
Harvest is always a time of hope, even in a difficult vintage like 2009. Some of the winemakers on Long Island picked later than they have ever before. June saw rain nearly all month, raising havoc with the fruit set. The result was significant reduction in yields. The lower availability of fruit was a mixed blessing allowing the grape vines to concentrate on ripening fewer clusters on what continued to be a cool summer. Nature smiled on vineyard manager’s perseverance with several extra weeks of warm sun through November increasing the promise of the clusters that continued to hang on the vines. As Chris Tracy, winemaker at Channing Daughters, characterized the vintage: “There won’t be much wine this year, but what there is should be good.” The long hang time seems to hold promise for Tracy’s observations.