By Melissa Dobson, Finger Lakes News Correspondent

This fall, I was given the opportunity to pack up my cameras and notebook to get out to some of the wineries here in the Finger Lakes to compile a report on the 2008 Harvest for Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association.

I wish it had been possible for me to get out to all of the wineries in the region in person, and want to thank those who submitted their photos for our Flickr photostream. The report was compiled and observations made during the height of harvest season and the following are direct quotes from the winery principals and winemakers. Lenn asked that we gather even more recent reports for this post.

Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

"2008 was an exciting harvest with excellent quality due to the sunny warm Fall days. Some vineyards elected to harvest early due to disease pressure but we were able to let our grapes ripen into late October and early November to take advantage of the excellent Fall weather. Conditions were ideal for the formation of botrytis (noble rot) on some of our Riesling. We plan to release several late harvest Riesling dessert wines from 2008 that will be of the quality of a Trockenbeerenauslese. I would agree with the Wine Spectator’s A rating for the 2008 vintage in the Finger Lakes."

Josh Wig, Manager at Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars

"As our 2008 harvest draws to a close, the wines here at Lamoreaux Landing are looking good across the board. We are very proud to grow all of our own fruit, as the quality of our wines are a direct result of our meticulous viticultural practices. Every year provides us with its own set of unique wine-growing challenges, and 2008 did not disappoint.

Acids for Chardonnay and Riesling were in our nominal range, and this should result in wines with a strong, food-friendly acid backbone. Gerwurztraminer and Muscat had characteristically low acids and high pH with strong varietal characteristics through fermentation and now in tank. Overall, varietal flavors in the new developing wines are intense. As we brought in more grapes this year than ever before, we have blending options to make wines of high quality, distinction and intensity. This is particularly true with our Riesling, which will be bottled in a few months.

As for our reds, early sun exposure on the fruit was achieved by implementing a vertically split trellis system in our most vigorous sites. Our Cabernet Franc benefited the most from this manipulation, and is coming through malolactic fermentation in good order. Our Merlot seems exceptional at this point, and it should be another classic year for Pinot Noir. We look forward to blending and bottling these red wines in 2010."

Chris Stamp, Owner and Winemaker of Lakewood Vineyards

"In regards to the 2008 harvest, the last month and a half was very favorable, long and frost free, with cool temps and moderate to light rain fall which resulted in slow steady ripening, which is ideal. I don't think any of us are surprised at how nicely the whites are showing. They are excellent with very expressive fruit, and excellent balance. My favorites are a toss up between the Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and the Pinot Gris, with the edge going, perhaps, to the Gewurzts.

To me, the big surprise is how nicely the reds are developing. Although I find reds a lot harder to evaluate this early, I didn't expect the level of structure or the amount of fruit I am seeing this early on. Most of the reds are still going through malolactic fermentation. When this fermentation is complete, the picture will be a whole lot clearer, but I am very optimistic. My current favorite is the Lemberger, which makes up the lion’s share of our 'Crystallus' blend."

Peter Becraft, Assistant Winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company

"The Rieslings are coming along quite nicely so far. There will be some super delicious '08 Rieslings coming from the Finger Lakes next year. The Tierce blending sessions have ended and there is some major excitement from all parties involved. Johannes and I are pretty excited about our '08 Gewurz as well. We had a lot of botrytis this year and we are privileged to have 2 TBA's (Riesling and Vignoles) and 2 BA's (Riesling and Pinot Gris) in stainless barrels. These wines will be our major stand outs from 2008 for sure. They will be enjoyed for many years. All in all we are very pleased with what came from the '08 vintage. No one got hurt and all the wines will be "good enough to drink" as we like to say."

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards
Winemaker Tim Benedict on their Ice Wine Harvest

"A dozen or so of the Hazlitt faithful gathered in the pre-dawn hours of November 22nd at the block affectionately known as the Pee Wee Vineyard. Their task was to collect the berries that had hung for weeks on this hillside awaiting right moment and temperature.

Several freezes had led up to this day and the berries had turned from greenish gold to milky brown, with flavors emerging of honey and apricot. This was what Winemaker Tim Benedict was looking for, an indication that these grapes were ready for that one last freeze, qualifying them for Ice Wine. The temperature was 17 degrees F at 4:30 am and the fruit had the consistency of sorbet when popped into the mouth.

The weather was clear with no wind, and the crew did their deed bolstered with Irish coffee, an on site chef cooking breakfast on a grill, and hobo fires in wine barrels to thaw the digits. A good time was had by all and they emerged from the vineyard with a ton and a half of frozen grapes, which were quickly turned into 120 gallons of nectar that measured 38 degrees brix and 2.9 pH. At this writing on December 15, the fermentation is around one half complete, and everyone at Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards is very excited about their first Ice Wine."