Harvest 2014: Polar Vortex vs. The Sheldrake Effect

As the season of feasting and raising of glasses winds down, our Sheldrake Point Winery family is taking a moment to reflect on Harvest 2014. We are so excited about the high quality of the fruit that came in, and our 2014 vintages are expected to be stellar examples of what we do at Sheldrake Point Winery.

Harvested grapes in a bin

The Sheldrake Point vineyard crew harvested 201 tons of fruit during Harvest 2014.

Our vineyard crew brought in 201 tons of fruit between October 2 and November 18, which marks a much later start than last year. So much about 2014 was unusual, starting with Polar Vortex conditions followed by a spectacular growing season! The cooler Finger Lakes summer couldn’t have been more perfect for our European origin vines, and the warm, dry, late summer allowed the fruit to ripen later (and longer) than usual. The drier conditions held off rot and, in fact, it stopped raining in September and didn’t rain at all during harvest! Our late varieties, Riesling and Cabernet Franc, never had frost to knock off the leaves, as was also the case with our Cabernet Sauvignon, which was last to be harvested.

In late March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the 19 counties of the Finger Lakes wine region an Agricultural Disaster Zone because of weeks of brutal, sub-zero conditions last winter. In some vineyards, the deep freeze damage cost more than half to nearly all of their vines.

We were lucky on Sheldrake Point. Our unique geography, micro-climate, water flow, soils, and vine varieties already create ideal conditions for hardy, larger, high-quality crops. We call this favorable blend of natural features ‘The Sheldrake Effect.’ And, it saved us last winter.

The lower elevation lakeside means cold winds shear off the top of the hill and cross Cayuga Lake without touching our property on the Point. We also have gorges on both sides of the vineyard, where cold air falls off as warm air comes up the hill. As vineyard manager David Wiemann says, you couldn’t design a better site.

View of Sheldrake Point Winery's vineyards during the Ice Wine grape harvest in 2014

Temperatures need to fall to 11 – 17 degrees Fahrenheit overnight to harvest grapes for ice wine. Just about a year ago, during the Polar Vortex, our crew answered the call to pick whether it was 11pm, 3am, or 7am!

The Sheldrake Effect made all the difference this past winter when temperatures dipped low, warmed, and then plunged again. We did suffer loses as our total crop load was down 15%, but the healthy, high quality fruit we brought in during harvest is a true silver lining. So many of our Finger Lakes neighbors were not so lucky.

The quality and success of Sheldrake Point wine begins in the vineyard, and the geographic insulation and micro-climate created by The Sheldrake Effect is the leading factor behind our consistency. That’s something to keep in mind when you taste our wines, and especially when you read our 2014 Vintage Report.

Just before Christmas we tasted through the entire 2014 vintage. I was able to document some great notes on every wine and I can’t wait to share with you my previews and mini-tasting notes of the Sheldrake Point Winery 2014 vintage-in-progress.

Check back in a couple of weeks for an in depth look at the Sheldrake Point Winery 2014 Vintage Report!

Chuck was attracted to the Finger Lakes wine industry during his graduate work at the Cornell Hotel School and was instrumental in the transformation of the old abandoned dairy farm to today’s winery and vineyard. As principle owners, he and his wife Fran assume the risk of the venture and personally see to its priorities and requirements.  Chuck’s focus is on the management and company systems and processes.  When not in the office, he and Fran may also be working with the staff, doing repairs, tending the gardens, or chatting with visitors.