By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
It has been raining for more than 36 hours here at my house and it's showing few signs of letting up. I don't measure rainwater totals here, but I can say definiteively that it's rained "a lot" across the East End of Long Island.
Ever since around 20" of October rain wrought havoc on the 2005 harvest and vintage, many observers pay far closer attention to rain here in Long Island wine country, but they needn't worry. Sure, this is a lot of rain, but it's fairly well timed and should have little-to-no impact on the 2011 vintage.
"We’re not worried about it," said Bedell Cellars winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich, "It’s just about the beginning of veraison and it’s a good time for the vines to get water going into the fall. A lot of research has been done surrounding water relations at veraison showing that vines lacking sufficient water at the onset of ripening can run into too much stress later on in the fall and cause lower levels of fruit maturity. We’re used to it and we plan for it during the course of any season. It’s all part of growing grapes in a maritime climate and what makes our wines taste so unique."
When Olsen-Harbich emailed me earlier today, he reported about two inches of rain in the Bedell vineyards.
At Pindar Vineyards, assistant winemaker Edward Lovaas reported one of the highest numbers I've heard today -- 4 1/2 to 5 inches of rain. He too characterized the rains as "No worry now. Just need sun and a nice breeze for a few days. But we do need the rain to stop."
Still, any moisture can bring problems in a vineyard. Charlie Hargrave, vineyard manager at Peconic Bay Winery, who reported just under three inches of rain this morning, told me "The amount of rain is not as much of a concern as the duration of the event. Obviously a rain like this is less of an issue than if we were in the middle of harvest. My biggest disease worry is botrytis. Thankfully I sprayed all bearing vineyards for botrytis before the rain."
Charles Massoud points out that what comes after the storm is what matters most. "At the prevailing temperatures (the rain) increases the chances of fungal diseases. We are netting and hedging today. We are likely to be spraying as well tomorrow," he said, adding "It is too early to assess whether this event is detrimental or not. If it is followed by good hot and dry weather then we will have 'weathered that storm'."