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Harvest 2010 in Virginia is underway…

Although I usually associate ‘harvest’ with the crisp cool weather of fall and the transition of green foliage to shades of yellow and orange, Afton Mountain Vineyards kicked off the ‘2010 Virginia harvest’ on Monday, July 26.  I’ve polled a few other Virginia winemakers and the folks at Afton Mountain are the only ones I know of that have already started harvest (although I’m sure there are others).

I had the chance to catch up with Afton Mountain Vineyard’s co-owner, Elizabeth Smith, and Marketing Manager Hunter Smith via email to ask a few questions about the start of harvest 2010.

What are you thoughts on the 2010 growing season so far?

EXCELLENT for wine quality, at least so far.  Hot and dry means quicker maturation and better grape chemistry.  We also planted a lot of new vines this year, largely replacing old and diseased vines and maximizing our real estate, and they have not fared as well.  Like all young plants they need a lot of water to get started.  We do not have irrigation, so it means taking a water tank into the vineyard and hand watering the new plants.  Very time consuming.

Lets talk about ‘Harvest 2010’ – what have you harvested so far?

We have only harvested the block of pinot noir that we use for our sparkling wine – Sparkling Tete De Cuvee.  We harvest the pinot noir and the chardonnay for that wine earlier than for a varietal wine.  The addition of sugar for the second fermentation in a true méthode champenoise would result in too high of an alcohol level if we picked the grapes at the standard level of brix.  The chemistry on the pinot was 17.5 brix, 3.1 pH, and 8+ total acidity.

What’s next to harvest?

We are harvesting our Chardonnay crop tomorrow (July 31), which will also be part of our sparkling wine.

July seems early to harvest – is this the earliest harvest at Afton Mountain Vineyards?

Yes, this is the earliest we have ever harvested here!

How does 2010 (so far) compare with prior years?   How does the fruit compare?

So far, 2010 looks like it will be several weeks ahead of schedule.  We may be harvesting the chardonnay for sparkling in the next few days.  The crop looks good, but not nearly as abundant as last year.  2009 was absolutely fabulous for quantity and quality; it seems sometimes that results in a lesser crop the following year.  The fruit is beautiful, though, and we have our fingers crossed for another excellent year.

I would like to thank both Elizabeth and Hunter for taking time out of their schedules to answer a few of my questions – especially during this busy time.

Afton Mountain Vineyards is located in Nelson County, VA and is part of the scenic Monticello AVA.  Afton Mountain Vineyards is home to some of the oldest vines in Virginia, dating back to 1977 – their first vintage was 1990.

It’s been several years since I visited Afton Mountain Winery, so I definitely need to plan a trip to visit and taste their current releases – and enjoy the views!

Tony and Elizabeth Smith, owners, Afton Mountain Vineyards with beautiful Virginia backdrop.

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