Through your lens: The grape harvest is underway

Sparkling Pointe in Southold hand harvests its grapes. (Credit: Sparkling Pointe/Instagram)

It’s that time of year again when all our friends in the Long Island wine industry are harvesting the grapes that will comprise the next vintage.

At Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue, harvest began on Tuesday, Sept. 10 — two days earlier than the past two years, according to general manager Ami Opisso.

“We experienced a rainy, cool spring which delayed ripening a bit early in the season, but late summer warm temps and sun have caught us up,” she said.  “We’re in very good shape for our whites. The fruit is clean and crop is a little light which makes for more concentrated flavors. It’s too soon to tell with the reds, though, because they’ll be ripening for the next month-plus.”

To determine when the grapes are ready, winemaker Russell Hearn pulls berry samples multiple times throughout the season. He tastes them to judge flavor and lab tests them to determine its sugar (called brix) and acid levels. Based on experience and years of trial, Hearn developed a brix target for each wine at Lieb and sister label Bridge Lane.

“He knows that if he picks our pinot blanc grapes at 18 brix, for example, that they’ll make for a beautiful, light, crisp sparkler,” Opisso said. “The first grapes to be harvested are the ones we use in the winery’s sparkling wines.”

Last Tuesday, it was chardonnay, which is used in Lieb’s sparkling rosé and blended with pinot noir, which is expected to be harvested next.

When asked to comment on the outlook for this year’s harvest, Hearn noted: ” Ask me in December, once I’m tasting the finished wines.”

Until then, enjoy the beauty of the season at hand with a look at harvest 2019 through the lens of local wineries and winemakers.

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Harvest has begun 🍇 📸: @tipsea_toms

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We started our 2019 Harvest with our Pinot Noir! Hand picking our grapes is a choice for quality over quantity and labor of love. By hand harvesting we are able to select only the most ripe and perfect clusters as well as “clean” any bad grapes from otherwise good clusters. While many people think harvest is a quick job – that Pinot we started picking this morning is just going to our sorting table now! Harvest is one of the busiest times of year for us here at the winery and vineyard with 16+ hours days being the norm. Don’t forget what goes into the bottle of wine you’re enjoying! Reminder: our 2016 Pinot Noir is still available for tasting in our Greenport and Southold Tasting Rooms through the end of the month!

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Busy harvest day! 📸: @jzaffy

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IT’S HERE. #liebvintage2019 🍇🍇🍇🍇🍇🍇🍇🍇

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