After challenging freezes at the beginning of the growing season, Loudoun’s vineyards are looking forward to a bountiful harvest in the coming weeks. As the white grapes pump and sweeten in their final growth stage, the threat of heavy rain from former Hurricane Laura and predictions of more storms next week have growers on alert.
Having the vines take up too much water at harvest time can dilute sugar levels or even cause the grapes to swell and split. High winds also could be damaging to the crop.
The remnants of Laura are expected to pass through Loudoun on Saturday.
At the vineyards, managers are closely monitoring sugar levels and hoping for a little more time to let the early grapes ripen to perfection.
Bozzo Family Vineyards Proprietor Steve Bozzo said on Wednesday it was too soon to make a decision on picking early, since Laura’s path and intensity when it hits Northern Virginia wasn’t yet clear. He said he might harvest Chardonnay/Viognier if the region is expected to get heavy amounts of rain.
Bozzo said picking too soon to avoid rain could produce fruit that is lower in sugar, higher in acid levels, and contains alcohol and other adverse characteristics. If picked too soon, white grapes could be greener and more bitter. Bozzo said that while some of those deficiencies can be corrected somewhat during fermentation, he prefers dealing with ripe grapes.
Breaux Vineyards General Manager Jennifer Breaux said she’s anywhere from a few days to two weeks away from harvesting her white grapes. She said her team is always watching the weather patterns. If an extreme amount of rain is expected to come in this weekend, she said her team would go ahead and harvest the fruit, which, she said, “is impeccable” because it’s disease-free this year, which has been relatively dryer than years past—an atmosphere highly conducive to growing grapes.
Diane Canney, the co-owner of Sunset Hills Vineyard, said she and her team are watching Laura’s path. She noted Sunset Hills has an advantage when it comes to situations like the one Laura is presenting now. That’s because the winery grows grapes at five different locations around the region, some of which are in higher elevations and others that are on steep slopes—meaning even in a prolonged downpour their grapes are a bit safer from saturation than others.