Vineyards in a Hurry to Harvest Grapes as Hurricane Florence Looms Closer
Grocery stores aren’t the only places experiencing a rush before the storm, some wineries across central Virginia are hurrying to harvest grapes.
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Grocery stores aren’t the only places experiencing a rush before the storm, some wineries across central Virginia are hurrying to harvest grapes. Winemakers say they're harvesting their crop about a week ahead of schedule. But if the grapes were left to stay on the vine as Hurricane Florence looms, the crop could be a total loss.
That rush is on at Keswick Vineyards as employees work to harvest grapes on the 75-acre piece of land in Albemarle County. “As you know, Florence is coming in and we're trying to get in as many grapes as we can before it gets here because what we're hearing is it's going to stay stationary and just drench the area,” said Al Schornberg, the owner of Keswick Vineyards.
Too much rain could be a problem for wine makers. “What happens is the berries soak up all of the water, then they explode, and then they rot,” Schornberg said. “So we would lose the crop.”
Vine by vine, these workers and volunteers are on a mission to finish before the storm hits.
“You know, the good thing is we've been through it before in 2003 and 2011, so arguably we're much better prepared to deal with these sort of challenging circumstances,” stated Stephen Barnard, the winemaker and vineyard manager at Keswick.
Considering all of the rain that’s already fallen this year, Schornberg is concerned but is remaining optimistic. “Well, yeah, this isn't fun - last year was a perfect year, that would have been great,” he said. “But this year, I guess we're making up for it, but we want to make a quality wine every year that we can. So when we have years like this, there's different things we can do to improve the quality.”
“It does mean a little bit more intuitive wine making, maybe a bit more sort of chemistry-based than hands-off - a little bit more manipulation on our part and intervention - but the ultimate product should be quite fine, actually,” Barnard said.
Keswick Vineyards says that in addition to hand-harvesting the grapes, it also has a harvesting machine to pick grapes in areas where the terrain is not too steep.
The vineyard says there are a few grape varieties that will remain on the vines until they're ready in October.