Growing grapes in New England? A tale of a grape

Vinifera grapes like chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.  Let’s face reality, it gets cold in New England (all that pesky white stuff that falls between November and April) and summers aren’t as long as they could be, either.  For all their tendency to grow rampant without being reined in, vinifera grapevines are delicate creatures.  They need sun and heat in the summer to produce sugar and ripen the grape berries.  Summer rains and humidity can lead to rot and mold growth inside the grape clusters.   In the winter, they get cold.  Buds can freeze and die.  If the temperature falls too low, water inside the vines can freeze and literally burst the vines open. It’s tough being a grapevine in New England. However, there are locations in New England that offer a welcoming home for grapes.  Along our coastlines, the ocean moderates both the cold winter and warm summer temperatures.  Even so, there are limits.  Red grape varietals like cabernet sauvignon, syrah, or zinfandel need more heat and longer summer days than we’ll ever see.  But varietals like chardonnay and Riesling are better possibilities since they tend to bud later after the danger of late frosts has passed and can fully ripen in our shorter summers. Even though Aaronap Cellars is landlocked inland, we can take advantage of the oceanic climate by sourcing grapes from what we consider to be the premier vineyard in Massachusetts, Westport Rivers Vineyards.  The vineyard’s location along the Westport River and a mile from the coast offers a premier spot for chardonnay, which the Russell family grows extremely well. Last fall, we sourced chardonnay to make our signature white wine, which will soon be released next month.  The juice was briefly fermented in unique barrels that are made of French oak heads and American oak staves to add a mixture of mild oak flavors.  The oak impact was mitigated by moving the wine to stainless steel tanks once sugar fermentation was complete.  The wine underwent a full malolactic fermentation and sur lie aging on the yeast hulls over the next 3 months.  I wanted to preserve the natural crisp acidity that is the signature of New England wine so I cold stabilized the wine to only 45 °F to prevent too much tartaric acid from precipitating.  The wine was bottled in early April for release in May. I’ll let you read the tasting notes over on our Wines page and simply invite you to schedule your private tasting to sample a wine that will open your eyes to Massachusetts-grown wine!   Cheers, Noel, winemaker]]>

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