Grape harvest begins in Ontario and New York

It’s official. The 2010 harvest has begun.

Today, August 25, crews at Tawse Winery in the Niagara region have gone into the vineyards to pick grapes for sparkling wine. In Long Island, as reported by the New York Cork Report, harvest started even earlier, with pinot grapes picked for sparkling on Monday at Macari Vineyards.

Pinot noir grapes at Hidden Bench, on the Beamsville Bench, had already taken on quite a bit of color on August 11.

The news was tweeted out early today by Tawse winery and winemaker Paul Pender. Picking was actually delayed by weekend rains, as it was originally planned for August 21. (Update: later in the day, Michelle Bosc of Château des Charmes also tweeted that pinot noir harvest for sparkling wine had started there as well).

Picking for sparkling grapes occurs earlier than harvest for still wines, which should start in a couple of weeks. Grapes for sparkling are picked at lower sugars and higher acidity, to produce the desired flavor profiles.

Wine growers and winemakers all over Northeastern North America can rejoice in a growing season that is a solid two weeks – if not three – ahead of average. It’s a welcome change from the 2008 and 2009 growing seasons, nailbiting summers that were exceptionally rainy and produced concerns for grape maturity.

This year, growers in Eastern Canada and New York find themselves in the strange situation of being ahead of California – and all of the West Coast. In Ontario, veraison – the moment when the grapes change color and start ripening – occured a good two weeks ahead of Napa Valley. The Willamette Valley, in Oregon, is barely getting to that stage now. Out West, the 2010 season is proving to be a rather stressful one.

Of course, not all the cards have been played so far. Many things can happen between now and October, when the bordeaux varieties like cabernet sauvignon are normally harvested. But with good sunshine and heat, and rain that generally fell when it was needed, growers in this part of the continent currently have a lot more room to maneuver than they have had since 2007.

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