By Heidi Sonen and Roscoe Shaw
“You’re old enough now. It’s time to learn to drink red wine.” That’s what Heidi told me when I was well into my forties. Although I’m not much of a drinker, I have learned to enjoy a glass of red. As it turns out, I’m trendy. Wine has become a big deal around here, and Crozet is now the virtual epicenter of the burgeoning Virginia wine industry.
Being a vintner may sound fancy, but the reality is that it is farming, and all farmers are at the whims of weather. Fall is harvest season and that comes with a myriad of complexities.
Frost can destroy a crop. Most of the crop is usually harvested here before frost is a real big threat … but not always. Heavy rains can bloat the grapes and water down their sugar content. If this happens, then it’s best to wait a while for the grapes to dry out. Waiting, however, can sometimes set the harvest timetable back into frost season.
Most of the vineyards are located on hillsides for a reason. Cold air drains into low-lying areas on clear calm mornings in October. Often, a low area can get a hard frost while the nearby hillside may be a safe 36 degrees. King Family Vineyard in Crozet has been known to hire helicopters to stir the air and keep the cold from freezing their grapes.
Our friend Fritz Repich of Mountfair Vineyard called us a few weeks ago with the usual worries. First, he heard rumors of an early frost. We assured him that the last time it frosted that early in September, Prohibition was in effect and wine was illegal. He felt better about that. Then he was worried about a forecast of four days of rain. We assured him it would likely be modest, which proved correct.
Fritz got his harvest in and now he is a drinker, not a worrier. Every wine is different, and the weather for the entire year leaves a mark on the taste. I’m not that sophisticated, though, and any cheap wine will do for me. But I appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into it.
For a great look at the Virginia wine industry, I highly recommend the documentary film “Vintage.” Crozet filmmaker Bill Reifenberger produced the movie, which details the up and down journey of Virginia winemakers.
September was cooler than normal for the second month in a row. With an average high of 77 and low of 57, it was hard to complain. Rainfall was moderate and timely as it has been all year. 2012 has not been a wet year, but the rains have been very consistent.
October will bring much shorter days and, most likely, the first frost. Last year, October even brought snow in the hills on the 28th, but that’s a rarity. Fall foliage peaks around the 15th on the Parkway and near Halloween down in the valley.
Rainfall Recap for September
- Nellysford 5.12”
- University of Virginia 4.32”
- Greenwood 3.96”
- Waynesboro 3.92”
- Crozet 3.62”
- Afton Summit 3.52
- White Hall 3.16”
- Rockfish 2.90”
- Charlottesville airport 2.30”