At Newport Vineyards, the harvest bins are ready, the presses are thoroughly clean, and the de-stemmers are fine-tuned. As vineyard staff begins taking protective bird netting off the vines, owner Paul Nunes closely monitors the condition of the grapes. The plan is to start picking today.

“The winemaker [George Chelf] and I are constantly trying the grapes and watching the weather and monitoring the sugar level, acidity, brix, and taste,” Nunes says. “We’re anticipating tremendous quality, amongst the best we’ve ever seen so far.” He attributes the anticipated high quality of this year’s harvest to having an exceptionally dry summer.

If all goes as planned, today the Newport Vineyards team will start by picking pinot noir, usually the first variety to be picked, Nunes explains. “Sugars are high and the birds seem to really like these grapes, so it’s a sign they’re fully ripe. The birds show me when the grapes are ready.”

After the pinot noir is picked, they’ll move on the Cayuga White, a grape that goes into Newport Vineyard’s Great White blend, then onto the other varietals. “Following Cayuga White, we’ll do Reisling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, then the reds like Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.” Nunes said the last grape to be picked is typically Vidal Blanc – some is picked before it freezes, and the remainder is picked after several freezes to make ice wine, usually in December, weather depending.

In addition the winery staff, others are coveting the ripe grapes currently hanging from the vines at Newport Vineyards: Birds, coyotes and deer are all vying to make off with a few delicious grapes before they’re picked tomorrow. Nunes says Starlings are the biggest offenders, followed by crows and other random song birds. Luckily, he’s made some allies in the bird world to help fend off the thieves. “Hawks are my friend, so I’ve built a lot of perches for them. Having a hawk hovering around keeps the flocks away by just the sight of them,” he said. “Owls are also good and help keep the rodent population down, so I have barn owl boxes too.”

Nunes says harvest typically takes six weeks. “We are hoping for a generally dry fall. We got a good soaking from Tuesday’s rain, but it’s been an almost ideal summer for us, and hopefully we can keep the hurricanes away this fall. I’m anticipating quality to be better than ever.”
Want to see harvesting in action? Get over to Newport Vineyards sometime in the next six weeks for a tasting! Info here:

Editor’s Note: While this story is editorial content, in full disclosure we’d like to share with you that Newport Vineyards is a current advertiser on this site.

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