By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
2011 was supposed to be a big harvest at Hudson-Chatham Winery where, according to owner Carlo DeVito, the plan was to harvest 20% more fruit than last year. Mother Nature — largely in the form of Hurricane Irene — had other plans.
"We probably just held serve, so we may experience some small growth because we still have some older wines, but we'll see a hiccup no doubt about it," Carlo told me.
The winery grows more four acres of vines itself, but depends on other growers — in the Hudson River Region and elsewhere in the state — for much of its production. Two of those vineyards were lost completely to Hurricane Irene and its associated flooding.
The Kinderhook AC Vineyard (seen behind the tree line in the photo above), which DeVito calls the "heart and soul" of his winery's Paperbirch Bannerman's Amber Cream Sherry-style wine, was decimated when the Kinderhook Creek flooded, covering the vineyard in more than four feet of water. "(The water) completely covered the fruit. The remaining fruit was covered in silt and unusable," he said.
More than 40 miles away in Ashland, NY the five-acre Woods Vineyard, which typically supplies Hudson-Chatham with Marquette, Noiret and Frontenac Gris grapes, had to be abandoned when flood waters washed out Route 23, cutting off car or truck access. "You'd have to four-wheel in and out of there, and the National Guard isn't letting people in," Carlo said.
To make up for the losses and maintain some — if far less than anticipated — growth Carlo told me "We ramped up production with several other vineyards. We rotated to some new growers and amped up our orders from others. We'll still have more wine than last year, but not as much as we were thinking."
Carlo is quick to put the challenges faced by his winery in perspective, telling me in an email "I don't want to sound lik the war-ravaged sister. We're going to be okay. At Palaia Vineyards, they lost one-third to one-half of their vineyard — posts and all. They found their trellises two miles down river. They were wiped out."