By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
Local growers and winemakers are watching the weather closely this week to keep an eye on Hurricane Irene, which has a projected path up the eastern seaboard and over the East End of Long Island on Sunday into Monday.
2011 has been a good growing season on Long Island. It started slowly with a rainy, grey June, but has improved since with plenty of hot, sunny days and enough mixed in to combat any drought-related stress on the vines.
Computer models aren't always reliable, but Hurricane Irene hitting wine country could have a serious impact on and otherwise fine vintage.
There are several factors to consider, including where the storm comes in, how long it stays and where it moves off shore.
A direct hit can snap trellis poles, send bird netting flying and leave an entire vineyard destroyed. In that scenario, the lost 2011 crop is only one of the problems. Repairing and potentially replanting a vineyard is a time-consuming and costly proposition. Even if the eye of the storm stays off shore, it could still mean high winds and significant spray from the ocean. If not washed away by rains, salt from the spray can dessicate and decimate the canopy in a matter of days.
The same rains that wash away salt spray could bring their own problems however. If the rain is hard and wind-driven, it can bruise the grapes. And, as always, rain can increase disease pressure.
There is little doubt that local farmers have the Weather Channel on their televisions today and will all week. That's all they can do though — watch, wait and hope.
In the meantime, I'll talk to some local growers and winemakers and publish updates the rest of the week.