When talking about weather in the Mid Atlantic wine industry, there's a common phrase that's laden with a little cynicism, humor, and sarcasm. Ask a vineyard manager or winemaker their thoughts on the growing season and they may answer "it was about normal, whatever that means."
The beginning of September had me fearing the worst. While the overall growing season was wet, it was at least warm. Then the last week of August saw the daily high temperatures drop into the 70s. The following week on September 2 saw 0.4 inches of rain and a high of 60° F in Leesburg, Virginia. By the 15th the rainfall had accumulated to over two inches with temperatures topping out only in the upper 70s. While the white wine varieties had ripened to an acceptable degree during this time, there was no way any red vinifera would in the coming weeks.
Then the following three weeks saw zero rain and daily highs in the mid 80s for much of that time. In other words, it was perfect ripening conditions for wine grapes. The photos below are from my client Antietam Creek Vineyards in Sharpsburg, Maryland. Partly due to the phenomenal weather, but also good vineyard management, the fruit came in ripe without excessive hang time. Merlot and Cabernet Franc came in at 25° Brix (% sugar or about 14.5% potential alcohol) while the Petit Verdot achieved 24° Brix (13.9% potential alcohol). Earlier in September Chardonnay (Sept. 12 harvest) was at 23° Brix while Albariño (Sept. 17) came in at 22° Brix.
The white wines have finished alcoholic fermentation and the reds are well underway in the fermenter. All the reds are being whole berry fermented this year (see next post). I have high expectations for the 2017 wines. I'll update the progress of these wines at different points of their lives in the cellar in future posts.