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Photo by Barbaraellen Koch

Favorable growing conditions and a healthy grape harvest in 2013 were boons to East End vintners, who told Cutchogue organization Merliance that, despite getting off to a rough start, this season ended up being the best on record.

“The year was a marvel in its long, dry, cool fall that allowed for excellent ripeness to develop,” said John Leo, winemaker at Clovis Point in Jamesport. “We could not ask for much more in the way of natural selection.”

Merliance, aka The Long Island Merlot Alliance, a coalition of Long Island vintners dedicated to promoting merlot as the region’s premier grape, said in a Dec. 18 press release they compiled data about this year’s harvest as it relates to merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.

“Based on the quality of fruit at harvest and early tank and barrel samples, Merliance winemakers report that the epic 2013 vintage promises merlot wines of rich, ripe fruit character, elegant structure and well-balanced, graceful power,” said Donnell Brown, the organization’s executive director.

Earlier this year, it seemed unlikely 2013’s vintage would be anything to write home about. High rainfall and unseasonably cool temperatures led to erratic fruit sets and lower-than-average cluster weights at East End vineyards, Ms. Brown said. Winemakers weren’t optimistic.

Suddenly, things got hot, really hot. A July heat wave, coupled with months of minimal rainfall, provided the crucial boost grapes in the region sorely needed, enabling them to properly develop and ripen to ideal conditions before the harvest began in September.

“We had 50 days without any rain, which eliminated the disease pressure and allowed us to harvest at our leisure and at each grape variety’s peak of ripeness,” said Anthony Nappa, winemaker at Raphael in Peconic. “The wine’s look great already so this will be a great vintage on Long Island.”