Walking out of the vineyard with sticky fingers and a purple mouth, it's shaping up to be a fantastic 2019 vintage. We had setbacks early on with some rot from the rain in the Pinot Noir. We dropped almost a ton of grapes into buckets to be added to compost, then made some beautiful juice from the remainder. Shortly after, we picked what was left of Pinot Noiron September 30th. It was a smaller quantity but the numbers look great.
The other varieties are looking absolutely beautiful. A little over 10 tons of Chardonnay grapes were bright gold and came in at 21.7° brix at harvest on October 10th and 11th. We picked about 1.5 tons of Merlot on Saturday the 12th followed by Blaufrankisch on Monday and Tuesday. The Blaufrankisch grape bunches were a beautiful deep purple and the crop was of good size and great quality. We worked hard to pick them so we could get them off the vine before the expected rain.
We picked Cabernet Sauvignon Friday morning and we still have Cabernet Franc and Riesling hanging and those will be picked within the week. We plan to leave some rows of Riesling to hang on the vines a bit longer to make a late harvest this year, which is always a great addition to our lineup of Rieslings.
Every year, when Earth Day rolls around, it gives us a great opportunity to share our goals and vision for sustainable grape growing - but we strive to communicate our mission every day: to educate and inform customers who enjoy our wines about how and why our efforts make a difference.
This year, we are really able to bring this more full circle. In the beginning of the year, owners of Heron Hill and grape growers, John and Jo Ingle, were awarded Grape Grower of the Year by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. This award is given out to a grower in New York State that should be recongized for their dedication and contributions to the New York grape industry.
John and Jo have been sustainably growing grapes on the Western Shores of Canandaigua and Keuka Lakes in the Finger Lakes since 1972, making them one of the original pioneers of the Finger Lakes wine business.
Though we are not certified organic, we pride ourselves on using sustainable practices in the vineyards that we cultivate on Keuka and Canandaigua Lakes. At Heron Hill and Ingle Vineyard we don’t use harsh fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides. (Due to our sometimes humid climate we maintain a fungicide spray program that only selects specific targets thus reducing the need to “blanket” spray.)
In May, we will cultivate the center rows which loosen up the soil, allowing moisture to seep into the ground, and we follow up with a cover crop that will grow and help prevent the errosion of the soil and soil compaction.
Ingle Vineyards, West side of Canandaigua Lake
When it comes to marketing and positioning our wines so that our customers know about our efforts in the vineyard to be sustainable, a lot of it starts in conversation in our tasting rooms. We feel it's important for a consumer to know where our products come from, how it was made or grown, that it's more healthful and that it's produced by caring, conscientious people.
If you've visited Heron Hill or have enjoyed a Heron Hill wine, you probably are familiar with the Ingle Vineyard series. Our Ingle Vineyard wines consist of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, The Chosen Spot blend and coming soon, a Blaufränkisch. All of these wines are single-vineyard wines that are made with sustainably farmed grapes from John and Jo's vineyards. If you haven't yet enjoyed one of these wines - now you surely have a reason!
It's very important to us to farm sustainably so that all who enjoy Heron Hill wines form a trust in our brand. We strive to make an impact on all who consume our products while also helping make a difference in the world. We want to ensure our farms have a viable future for generations to come.
Learn more about our sustainable farming practices.
John Ingle selected a slope near where he planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot over 15 years ago to clear a site for planting Blaufränkisch (also known as Lemberger). What looks like barely a nub peaking out, is supported by a much larger root system buried in the soil, and should produce grapes in 3-4 years. It’s important to keep the new planting covered with dirt as much as possible to hold the moisture.
Heron Hill’s history with Blaufränkisch goes back to 2007 when the winemaker at the time, Thomas Laszlo who had live in Hungary, had a fondness for the variety. Since that time Blaufränkisch has developed a following among Heron Hill’s returning visitors and Heron Hill only produces the wine select years bottling it under the Reserve label. Stay tuned for updates on the progress of this new site!
“Buds is the word!” exclaimed John Ingle this week.
Other lots at Ingle Vineyard look good for this point in the year – we’re counting strong numbers of 40+ healthy, lively buds per vine across Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Interestingly, the vines at Ingle Vineyard are a bit further along with larger buds than the Heron Hill Keuka Lake estate vineyards.
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at Ingle Vineyard have experienced much damage after the past three harsh winters. However, we’re seeing more Pinot Noir buds already this year than the last three year total. Although it’s early in the season and even the smallest things such as wasps can have an impact on harvest, John Ingle is hopeful that we’ll see an increase in Pinot Noir yields this year at Ingle Vineyard
Thanksgiving at the Ingle home is a perfect opportunity to share the Ingle Vineyard lifestyle with family and friends. Being an avid gardener as well as a grape grower, Thanksgiving is all about homegrown. The festivities begin with Ingle Vineyard Chardonnay unoaked, our favorite wine! Crisp and refreshing with complex flavors of apple and lemon, it satisfies the palate. As we move into the dinner mode our thoughts turn to turkey and a versatile red such as the just released Ingle Vineyard Merlot Reserve 2013. A bright and juicy wine with medium body and a silky mouthfeel that will nicely complement the assorted organic homegrown delicacies such as sweet peas, mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes (yes, all from our Finger Lakes garden) and stuffing made with our carrots, celery, herbs and raisins. Traditional and time-tested flavors. For dessert we look forward to our organic apple cider pie paired with a delicious Ingle Vineyard Icewine 2010. This is a luscious wine that has an intriguing aroma of glycerine followed by creamy sweet flavors of quince and pear – nice foil for the pie.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it’s all about family, sharing, counting our blessings and enjoying our home. All recommended wines are available at our three tasting rooms and online at heronhill.com. Enjoy!
Heron Hill Winery, Heron Hill Tasting Room at Bristol, and Heron Hill Tasting Room on Seneca Lake are closed on Thanksgiving Day, however please join us for Small Business Saturday. Visit any one of our three locations on November 28th for storewide wine discounts and holiday cheer.
The harvest season plods along, day-to-day, vineyard-to-vineyard, weather report to report -- it’s hurry up then wait. This convoluted vintage of freezing winter, wet summer, hot September and now cooperative October weather has brought in some beautiful grapes. The scant harvest (1.2 tons) of Pinot Noir brought exciting brix (sugar) levels and great jammy flavors. The Chardonnay, again a scant quantity (8.5 tons) was declared "perfect" by winemaker Barry Tortolon. Now we are into the Riesling. Finally good quantities to go with exceptional quality. The 7.5 inches of rain we had in June helped to develop Botrytis (the "noble rot"). We hope this block of Riesling brings a very interesting dessert wine. Next will be Merlot, then Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, late harvest and icewine.
Winemaker Barry Tortolon inspecting Chardonnay from Ingle Vineyard; checking Brix in the early morning; clean & ripe Riesling from Keuka Lake.
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Even as the pulse of the spring chores accelarates in our vineyards along Canandaigua Lake, I pause to reflect on the maple syrup harvest that already seems some time ago. We tapped the trees in mid-February as we usually do. There was a brief warm spell that yielded five gallons of sweet, light amber syrup. After that is was cold, cold, cold, well into mid March. We harvested another 15 gallons from our seventy taps but being as late as it was, the syrup was noticeable darker. Toward the end of the season the maple trees bring more solids up from the roots causing the darker color. Old time Vermonters know that this darker syrup isn’t the favorite choice of syrup connoisseurs but that it does have more flavor and viscosity, so they gladly charge tourists top price for light amber syrup while they smile and enjoy the darker stuff. We ended up with a large yield after all – about 20 gallons – and the cupboards are full awaiting visiting grandchildren. So begins the growing season of 2014 – promising challenges and opportunities as we await bud break at Ingle Vneyard with possibilities of extensive bud kill. Time will tell how severe the damage is—probably by mid-May we'll have a better sense.
The master about to give his product his critical taste test. Fresh maple syrup for a morning staff meeting at the Winery.
October is always a crazy busy month, except for last year. By the first week of October in 2012 we were done - finished - with the harvest. An early spring - dry, hot summer and smallish crop led to a two to three week early harvest. It was bizarre - but good. 2013 is almost the opposite. A late spring, cool damp summer and a large crop has made us two to three weeks behind schedule. Actually, mid-October, we've just started. We brought in 22 degrees Brix Pinot Noir early this week and are now almost done with the Chardonnay.
(Some of the Heron Hill Harvest Crew on the press pad; Zeb & Bernard with crushed Pinot Noir)
The damp summer led to many mildew problems. I have talked to growers who had to spray 15 to 20 times for assorted diseases. The average is 6 to 10 times so there was a lot of mildew pressure. Ingle Vineyard, under the supervision of Vineyard Manager Kyle Franzoni and assistant Zeb Archer, has managed to bring a large crop of ultra-ripe, super clean grapes to the press deck. The Heron Hill vineyard, managed by Don Riesenberger, is also looking awesome. Brix (sugar) levels are over 20 degrees and up to 22 degrees. This will bring bold, tasty wines with great depth and character.
Last weekend we shared the harvest duties with sweepstakes winner Jaime Murphy, and her husband James. Not only were they a delight to work with but they really pulled their weight in the vineyard, keeping up with the well-seasoned crew we have. It was a gorgeous day in the Finger Lakes and hand-picking beautiful Pinot Noir, enjoying a vineyard picnic of all organic, home-grown fruits and vegetables, followed by supervising the activities on the press deck at the winery made for a very memorable day for all. Thanks to everyone who helped put this great Heron Hill experience together: Elke, Erin, Kate, Bernard, and especially Sales Director Eric Frarey who came up with this great idea.
(Sweepstakes winners having lunch in the vineyard; Sweepstakes winners receive certificates from owner John Ingle and sales director Eric Frarey after a successful day.)
As we watch for the rest of the harvest to occur we are full of exuberance and pride as the fruits of our labor promise great things in the bottle!
(John Ingle with Sweepstakes winners at Ingle Vineyard)
The 2013 harvest is imminent. Some early varieties such as the seedless, are already ripe and others are progressing nicely with Brix (sugar) levels at 16-18 degrees: the goal is to get to 22 degrees, that would make well balanced wines. They say grapes ripen about 1 degree per week so the next four to six weeks are crucial.
Many of you already know how the weather in the Finger Lakes has been this summer—it’s been cool and wet. Lots of vine growth but constant mildew pressure. Last year, 2012, was a hot and dry season with Brix levels up to 25 degrees—good for rich, full bodied wines—what I call a “Pinot Noir Year.” In contrast, as in this season, cool damp weather is perfect weather for a “Riesling Year.” Crisp acidity, steely, mineral laden, food-friendly wines also including the rising star—unoaked Chardonnay.
So the stage is set, Mother Nature holds the cards, a couple of cards are “up,” but the remaining cards will tell the hand. The only different is we can’t fold, just come back next year and do it, again—it’s a vintage!
Heron Hill at Bristol has been buzzing with excitement for 2013. Our energetic staff remains the same from last year Joshua, Christopher, Chelsea, Debi, Stephanie and Cindy. We have added two new employees, as well, Suzi and Torin. Our customers are amazed at how beautiful our surroundings are and vow to come back again; and they are! With the close proximity to Rochester, it is an easy day trip to bring out-of-town guests or a leisurely drive from Syracuse or Buffalo. We are also beginning to notice many of our late afternoon customers are stopping before a concert at CMAC or dinner at the great restaurants residing in Canandaigua which is only 20 minutes away.
Our newest addition, Fridays after 5 with Wood Fired Pizza, 5:00 pm-9:00 pm, has been a huge success right from the start. For the month of July and August on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, the sounds of live music and the smell of wood-fired pizza fills the air; neighbors and new friends alike share tables for an evening of fun. We've already hosted two of these food & wine events, many people have attended both, and are looking forward to the next. Each week we offer a different genre of music. Our customers have been excited and each band brings its own set of followers which exposes Heron Hill at Bristol to a new set of fans. The setting creates a beautiful family event at a vineyard with music, people dancing, kids racing around….it’s just a great evening! There are only 3 weeks left (August 9, August 23 and August 30th), so try to make it to Heron Hill at Bristol for an evening of fun.
On September 21st, our Third Annual Ingle Vineyard Harvest Festival (12:00–6:00 pm) will be held at our tasting room. Music by DANG!, a country-rock band, wood-fired pizza, cider pressing, fresh popped popcorn, wine, beer and soda will be served. This is a family event as well. There is a baby pumpkin hunt, ring tosses and coloring station for the kids. Bring your lawn chairs and/or blankets, and spend a day at Heron Hill at Bristol.
We are now serving glasses of wine to enjoy outside overlooking the vineyard. If you haven’t been in Heron Hill at Bristol on Ingle Vineyard, you are in for a wonderful surprise. We look forward to seeing you.
Upcoming music schedule:
Aug. 9 - Trinidad Band
Aug. 23 - Shared Genes
Aug. 30 - The Bristol Brothers
There is a standing joke in the wine business that in Bordeaux, France, every vintage is the best ever and thus justifying raising the price. Fortunately, and unfortunately, this is not the case in the Finger Lakes of New York. Every year there seems to be some glitch that throws a wrench in to the works of what would be the best vintage ever. We’ve seen extensive winter bud kill from -20 degree temperatures; we’ve seen Spring frosts into the low twenties in May; we’ve seen hurricanes that wash out the harvest and turn a seemingly great harvest into a good harvest. There are so many things that can go awry. Wine growers must be super-resilient just to survive, not to mention excel.
2012 appeared to be another one of those years as we experienced devastating late spring frosts state-wide in early May, reducing potential crop loads by up to 25%. These difficulties were followed by localized hailstorms that actually wiped out some vineyardists’ crops. Surviving these events, we endured a summer long drought that further stressed the vines, and the farmers. As harvest approached, timely rainfall arrived and the brix (sugar) levels soared. Usually we are delighted to get 21° or 22° brix but this year brought up to 25° brix levels across the board. The rains held off and super-ripe, clean fruit arrived for crushing up to three weeks early. It was a very fast harvest with everything ready to come in at the same time. The production team scrambled and as the fermentations are now over we see – in my opinion after 40 years as a grape grower – the best year ever! Time will tell – next year we’ll know the results. Stay tuned…