Despite everything that Mother Nature can throw at western Massachusetts during the summer, everything seemed to fall in line nicely for Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton this year.
"The vines are looking nice and green and healthy." said Ed Hamel, vineyard manager at Black Birch Vineyard. "It's been a good year to grow grapes."
The Pioneer Valley just experienced one of its wettest summer's on record, with just over 24 inches of rain being officially recorded at Bradley International Airport since June 1. Fortunately, the timing of all of that rain was ideal for a vineyard.
Most of that rain fell early in the summer, including more than 10 inches in the month of June alone, which is good for growing the vines. Precipitation amounts have now been slightly below normal over the last few weeks, which is ideal for the grapes to develop.
"One of the things we really get concerned about is too much rain, because too much rain causes excess water to go into the grapes, which lowers the sugar content, and which lowers the flavor level." said Hamel.
Many of the grapes for this year's vintage will be ready for picking in mid-October. Until then, the ideal weather would be cool nights and sunny afternoons in the 70s, as well as avoiding any long periods of excessive rain.
"Pretty much we have what we have, and hopefully we can keep what we have over the course of the next three weeks," said Hamel.
While the Napa Valley of California is world-renowned for its wine-making, the climate of western Massachusetts allows for unique wines to be made using grapes from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.
Michelle Kersbergen, one of the four owners and managers of Black Birch Vineyard, said they can offer more specialized varieties that grow in colder climates.
"You do have your varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that you find in other areas of the world," said Kersbergen, "but we also make wines out of varieties like Corot Noir and Traminette."
Black Birch Vineyard's Epic White received a Double Gold award at the 2012 Big E Wine Competition, and their Vidal Blanc was named the Best Massachusetts Wine Grown In-state in 2013.
It's not just the wine itself that brings people to Black Birch, but learning how wine is made and enjoying a scenic area of Southampton adds to the trip.
"Learning how the process works, the whole tasting experience, when you come here, you'll know that the view is incredible." said Kersbergen. "It's an ideal spot to just come visit and relax."
Black Birch Vineyard offers wine tastings on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., as well as weekends from noon to 5 p.m.
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