News Column

Autumn Brings Bouquet to Small Vintners

Oct. 23, 2012

Mark Fisher


First came an early season freeze, then an extended summertime drought, followed by potentially troublesome autumn rains. Despite the odds, most wineries in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio say vintage 2012 promises to be a solid, and perhaps spectacular, vintage.

We surveyed five winegrape growers from southwest and west-central Ohio along with a statewide winemaking expert about the 2012 harvest and the prospects for the vintage. Grapes are still fermenting in the wineries (or in some cases, still hanging on the vines in the vineyards), and the Ohio's 2012 vintage wines won't make it to the marketplace and winery tastings rooms for another year or two. But winery folks can usually get a pretty good idea about vintage quality based on the ripeness level, natural sugar content, acidity and sometimes just the taste of the grapes they're picking.

Here's what we heard from the vineyards about Ohio's 2012 vintage:

Joe Schuchter, Valley Vineyards near Morrow in Warren County: "All the reds are coming in with such good color. The summer heat made the skins nice and thick. Our syrah came in ink-black. Our Catawba grapes came in with higher sugar content than usual -- it will be the best we've ever made. The Seyval Blanc also promises to be the best ever. The spring frost had little impact on volume, and the dry summer meant we had less loss to disease, so we'll have a good volume of wine from the 2012 vintage."

Jim Brandeberry, Brandeberry Winery near Enon: "The grapes were ripe with higher sugar and near ideal acid numbers ... . Yields were down -- my vineyard was down by about half. I don't have enough experience working with grapes from different harvest conditions to know what this harvest will mean, but I think the wines should be good and better than usual."

Mike Williams, Winery at Versailles in Darke County: "We are just finishing up, but overall not only was the quantity good, but so was the quality. Our local guys harvested quite early, and had some issues with drought stress, but were able to overcome that ... . Overall, the color and flavor appear to give us a the very least an above average harvest, while the dry year gave us a lot of concentrated fruit. The fruit that was harvested after the rains came is a little more iffy."

Ron Barrett, Kinkead Ridge winery in Ripley: "Great promise early. The Syrah is toast due to rot. The good news is that the Cabernet Sauvignon is in good condition, and really so is the Petit Verdot. The Cabernet Franc I have (harvested) is going to make nice wine."

Todd Steiner, enology program manager and outreach specialist, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center/Ohio State University: "Generally speaking, at the present time, I believe this could turn out to be an excellent vintage. We owe this to the hot summer which more importantly went through the whole month of August and the first week of September.

"The middle and latter part of September including October have not been overwhelmingly great due to slightly above average rainfall. We did have some relatively warm days and cool nights which provide for good sugar accumulation. We have had both red and white grape varieties come in with high sugar concentrations, low acidities (a good thing) and manageable pH values.

"These numbers reflect what you would typically see in warmer regions such as California. Most commercial harvests are wrapping up at least two weeks earlier than usual."

Brad Hively, La Vigna Estate Winery near Georgetown: "The 2012 harvest has just been completed and the grapes are in the finishing room. With the majority of the work done, it is time to relax and let the wines make themselves.

"Petit Manseng was picked Sept. 29. Fruit came in ripe with moderate to moderate-high sugar levels and moderate acid numbers. With aggressive field sorting, the fruit that was carried to the finishing room was sound. ... I expect the outcome from primary fermentation to produce a dry white with alcohol levels in the 13 to 13.5 percent range.

"Cabernet Franc was picked last Saturday (Oct. 13), so far one of the coldest days of the fall. ... Fruit had good flavors with full maturities ranging from ripe to over-ripe with moderate-high sugar levels and moderate-low acid levels. In summary, the 2012 vintage has the potential to make some interesting wine."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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