free run juice

sandy devastates red hook winery

photo from Nona Brooklyn

In addition to the loss of life and homes, businesses got hit by Sandy too. As grapefriend, this story I read made me feel horrible for Red Hook Winery, who has probably lost all of their wine.

The winery was doing a cool experiment where they took grapes from the same North Fork vineyard but made them in different ways to see how they’d come out. Even though most Long Island wineries have finished picking grapes for harvest, now begins fermentation where you have to keep track of the process and temperature control it. Nona Brooklyn interviewed their head winemaker, Chris Niccolson, about Sandy’s impact.

I guess we have to assume total devastation. Surely for the vintage – for all of the wine. We have to assume a total loss until we see where everything is at because the water level rose so significantly. Just about all of our barrels were submerged in the water that came through. The barrels were stacked three high in some places and higher than that in others, and the water just rushed in and floated and toppled everything.

In terms of the equipment, we lost all temperature control. We keep the barrel room here at a very steady temperature and humidity level at all times to hold the wines as they age, and that temperature control is completely gone. So even if some of the barrels themselves weren’t compromised, the loss of temperature and humidity control is devastating. Temperature and humidity control is critical when you’re making wine, and we’ve completely lost that.

We just finished our grape harvest for 2012 a few weeks ago, and have all these new wines in active fermentation in these big steel tanks along the wall. When you’re in the midst of active fermentation, before you move them to barrels to age, you are constantly monitoring what’s happening with the fermentation and making precise adjustments to the temperature to the tanks, and of course since we’ve lost all heating and cooling ability we have to assume that’s all gone. We have to assume everything is lost.

And it’s particularly difficult for us because we can’t just clean up and make new wine to quickly bring to market. It takes a couple of years to make our wines – two years in the barrel – and this year’s fruit harvest is basically finished so we won’t really even be able to start making wine again until next year’s harvest, a year from now. It’s just devastating.

Good luck, Red Hook grapefriends. All winemakers are always so subject to weather’s whims, but that’s a particularly big hit.


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