Vintage Notes 2012

The 2012 growing season in the Finger Lakes was exceptional. With good fruit set, warm weather and just sufficient rain, a solid crop achieved full ripening. Red and white wines exhibit excellent varietal expression with the reds having the darkest color in years.

Warm temperatures in mid-March brought some varieties out of dormancy four to six weeks earlier than normal posing a serious threat for spring frost. However our advantageous site proved its worth once again and we emerged virtually unscathed.

Growing degree day accumulation was almost identical to 2010, the warmest growing season that the Finger Lakes has had in over 40 years. As of August 30, the region had accumulated as many growing degree days as it normally does by the end of October. Rainfall totals were below average in most months as well, particularly in May, June and August, which helped to keep disease pressure low for most of the growing season. While the area did go through a stretch of several weeks with very little rainfall in late May, June and July, most vineyards were not as significantly impacted by drought stress as many other types of crops in other parts of the East and Midwest. At Sheldrake Point we were able to irrigate a few of the drier vineyard blocks.

As was true in 2010, the warm weather meant that the vineyards were ahead of schedule in terms of bloom, veraison and harvest. Most varieties were picked 2-3 weeks earlier than normal, and because disease pressure remained low even with the return of some rain during harvest, later ripening varieties could be picked based on fruit characteristics and flavor development instead of disease development.

Harvest started with Pinot Gris (quite normal) on September 12 a week earlier than in 2011 but almost on the same day as the warm & compact 2010 (Sept 13). In comparison to 2011 the red varieties came in much earlier – Gamay (29 days), Merlot (19 days) and Cabernet Sauvignon (18 days).

Harvest ended on Oct 29 (not including Ice Wines) with Cabernet Franc and Riesling – a total period of 47 days (trying to wait out the rainy spell at the end added a week and required considerable sorting). The 2011 vintage lasted 55 days (we successfully waited out a wet period and the reds hung very well) and 38 for 2010.

As can be anticipated in a warm year, brix development was higher than normal in a number of varieties. Good acidity levels are an important component for many Finger Lakes wines, especially Riesling. Acidity levels in fruit can be problematic in warm years like 2012 but this was not especially the case at Sheldrake Point.

Overall, we have excellent varietal expression and concentration in Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Dry Riesling. The reds (all of them!) have deep color, wonderful expression and are clearly some of the very best since 2001, 2002 and 2007. Most especially our Cabernet Franc is wonderfully aromatic and BLK 3 Pinot Noir exhibits remarkable phenolic structure.

Our thanks to Hans Walter Peterson of Cornell Cooperative Extension for his assistance.

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