Deirdre Heekin, co-owner and winemaker of la garagista in Barnard, Vermont sent this 2016 harvest report yesterday evening:
“2016 has been a remarkable season. For the first time in quite a few years, we were not inundated with rain in June. We had some unfavorable rain and cooler weather in May that affected the pollination of our fruit trees, but by the time flowering happened in the vineyards in June, the weather was warm and dry and we had excellent fruit set.
Warm and dry was the shape of summer into autumn. All three vineyards faired quite well in terms of each individual microclimate, the dry weather working to our advantage in both the mountain vineyard and the two parcels in the valley. Since humidity and too much water can be problematic for us here in Vermont, having so little rain helped us viticulturally keeping pathogens down and helped the season proceed relatively smoothly. The few times there were rain storms, they brought hail, and luckily we were not in the path.
One of the biggest insect problems that we have in all three vineyards is Japanese Beetles, but this year they were much less of a problem in the Champlain Valley and almost nonexistent at the homefarm vineyard. Whether this was a product of our management of the beetles really working well in concert (we have beneficial nematodes in the soil; we use kaolin clay on the plants as a deterrent, as well as pheromone traps surrounding the perimeters), or the very mild and warm winter allowed another insect to thrive and eat the larvae at a soil level, we just don’t know. It may be due to all of the above.
The fruit developed through all its phases beautifully providing us with our fullest harvest yet, which is something we are hearing repeatedly from around the state. We spent 40 days picking and processing all three vineyards, and are now still pressing off wine and bottling certain sparklings. Fermentations have been strong and clean. The first fruits picked fermented relatively quickly given the high heat at the beginning of September, but everything picked mid-September through mid-October has fermented slowly and steadily, for about eight weeks for each variety.
The one thorn in the side of this really wonderful year has been that we had some bird damage in October in the homefarm vineyard which took almost half the crop and was due to a change in flocking patterns and a problem with securing our nets. These are lessons we’ll put into play for next year as this has been two years in a row that we’ve sadly lost part of the homefarm crop (2015 was due to an August hail storm.)
Tasting the nascent wines suggests that this vintage has great possibilities and could potentially be the best one yet!”