New York

Finger Lakes

The good news: A warm, dry season produced beautiful wines from all top varieties.

The bad news: Early budbreak and minor frost may have diminished some yields, but not much. Vineyards without irrigation suffered some in dry conditions.

Picking started: Aug. 25 for sparkling wine; Sept. 3 for still wine

Promising grapes: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer

Analysis: The Finger Lakes region enjoyed a warm, dry growing season and ideal harvest weather, resulting in a very consistent harvest of white and red varieties. Producers were generally ecstatic, despite a precocious spring that saw an early budbreak in mid-March. “The advantage of vines staying dormant, of course, is that they aren’t threatened by spring frosts,” said Peter Bell, winemaker at Fox Run. “This year, a few frost events did happen in late March, but they weren’t serious.” From there the season turned warm and dry. Well-timed rains in August gave the vines a boost.

Riesling is the Finger Lakes’ lead variety, and producers were gushing over the rare combination of ripeness and fresh acidity. “With all the warm weather, I had suspected that we may be facing flavors and structure in Riesling where the bright, electric fruit was somewhat supplanted by flavors of more stewed and baked fruit,” said Dave Whiting, owner and head winemaker at Red Newt Cellars. “But so far, I am seeing terrific, bright fruit and great acid structure.” Red varieties also performed well, with growers picking leisurely through the month of September. “The dry weather afforded us the opportunity to wait for optimal ripeness on each Pinot Noir clone and vineyard block,” said Tom Higgins, owner and winemaker at Heart & Hands Winery on Cayuga Lake.

Long Island

The good news: One of the region’s warmest years produced ripe fruit.

The bad news: Fall rains hurt growers who weren’t vigilant in defending vineyards from mildew.

Picking started: Aug. 25 for sparkling wine; Sept. 9 for still wine

Promising grapes: Cabernet Franc; Petit Verdot

Analysis: After slogging through the wettest vintage yet in 2011, Long Island winemakers were delighted by a warm, dry 2012. “We had a beautiful and warm year with really quiet weather patterns all summer with lots of heat and sun,” said Rich Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Bedell Cellars. That warmth was the difference between greatness and disaster—an early start to the year brought harvest two weeks early. And Hurricane Sandy came roaring up the East Coast just days after the last red grapes were picked.

At Wölffer Estate in the Hamptons, winemaker Roman Roth also started picking two weeks early. The warm, dry weather made things easy for much of the year, but growers couldn’t just kick back. “You couldn’t take it easy because every week in August and September there was some rain and that brought disease pressure,” said Roth, who also makes his own brand, Grapes of Roth. He also reported frost in the spring, but that proved a blessing for Cabernet Franc, which can suffer from high yields. The frost kept yields low, the Cabernet Franc fully ripened, and the Merlot kept some elegance due to the fall rains …

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