Merlot fruit at Corchaug Estate. Taken on July 27, 2014.

As we head into September and then the grape harvest season across New York, the NYCR team will be checking in with some of the state’s top wineries and vineyards to see how the growing season has been and where things stand today.

I caught up with Brewster McCall of McCall Wines, who recently walked his family’s vineyard,  Corchaug Estate, in Cutchogue and spoke with his father, Russ McCall, about the season.

Merlot verasion in McCall Wine's Corchaug Estate vineyard
Merlot verasion in McCall Wine’s Corchaug Estate vineyard

Like much of New York, the spring at  McCall’s Corchaug Estate was cool, rainy and started late — a couple weeks later than average. Spring rain isn’t a problem, according to Brewster who told me in an email “The water was no worry early in the season because it gave the plants a good start, and there was no fruit to be impacted at that time.”

The season may have started soggy, but it’s been a very dry summer, and daytime temperatures have rarely approached 90 degrees, with cool nighttime temperatures. Those may not seem like ideal growing conditions for local vineyards, but they aren’t atypical either. “Cool nights and a slow season are not bad per se,” Brewster said. “They encourage slow, steady growth which in turn produces softer wines. We love the dry summer — it keeps fungus, bugs and unruly growth at a minimum.”

A little over a week ago, Brewster thought that they were only about six days behind typical and “the fruit is looking pristine.”

Because of the cooler, slower growing season the McCalls have decided to reduce their crop at verasion, which began a few weeks ago — keeping the first ripening clusters and trimming away the slow movers, which will ” allow the plants to focus on the best, strongest fruit and encourage ripening in those promising clusters without wasting any vigor on the fruit trailing behind.”

Overall, Brewster McCall seems excited about the 2014 vintage, calling it “incredibly unique, unlike any other season since 2005.”

I asked what the rest of the season looks like in an ideal world and he said “We won’t receive much rain and will get some warmer days to help the ripening along. If that happens, we could have a great vintage on our hands. The year has the potential to be up there as a 9 out of 10 — giving restrained, well structured, concentrated and balanced wines.”

Despite his optimism, Brewster also understands the worst-case scenario. “One worry is that tropical storm season has begun down south, and if a wet storm blows up from Florida it could negatively impact our year.  Fingers crossed that won’t happen,” he said.