"It's made all the difference," owner Len Wiltberger said on a quiet day with most of the grapes in. "We went from nearly five tons an acre to about two and a half with cabernet franc, and it came in just beautiful."
It also helps that Keuka Spring saw enough green in the canopies to hang some varieties until Halloween. They brought in cabernet franc and lemberger to finish the harvest. Winemaker Mark Wiltberger was excited with what he saw in the lemberger, which was particularly impressive in 2007. "We've had a string of nice vintages for lemberger," he told me, already enthusiastic about the 2008 version.
The Wiltbergers are even more fired up about the gewurztraminer, which also hung into late October. Len, a confessed gewurz addict, is thrilled: "When we tasted the juice before fermentation, luscious tropical flavors of lychee, passion fruit, and guava jumped out at us."
This is a family that believes gewurztraminer can stand alongside riesling as the most celebrated grapes in the Finger Lakes.
Unlike some of their neighbors, Keuka Spring did not see canopies fried by killer frosts. "We did have that Keuka Lake snow fall, right in the middle of October," said Jeanne Wiltberger, another family member who works for the winery. "But it was a wet and heavy snow that, thank goodness, kept our grapes in good shape for harvest. One light frost also was not cause for concern in terms of berry survival."
Keuka Spring did not drop croploads for all varieties, but their thoughtful consideration for how to handle a rough year is surely an important sign for where the region is headed.