I don’t blame you if you tuned out. It has been just over five months since my last post, and like it always does, it surprised me that it has been that long. Like the memes say, the days are long, but the years are short. And believe me, we have been putting in some long days since my last post. [Editors note: I wrote this post the morning before we lost Enzo, so my memorial to him got posted first. The ‘long days, short years’ bit really hits home.]
Let’s talk about the 2019 growing season. If you have been to the tasting room during this half of 2019, you have heard me say this: I think that 2019 may have been as close to a perfect growing season as we get to see on the east coast. When I last wrote, we were pretty wet, trailing 2018 by just 2” or so of rainfall, meaning we were on track for another very wet year. But it was a different kind of wet, one where the rain came in big bursts, with weeks-long breaks between each event, not like 2018 when it seemingly rained every day. In the second half of August, we only had 2.3 inches of rain, with half of that amount on 22 Aug. From 1 Sept to 15 Oct? We only saw 1.4” of total rain in that six week stretch of what we call harvest. What’s more, we had no appreciable hurricane threats here. Dorian was a big storm that did not deliver the typical rains this far inland.
And that dry weather was great for harvest, but the heat accumulation was good too. Man, was it hot this summer, but it was just as hot this fall. From May through August, we had 10 days of 90F or higher temperatures. We had 10 more days of 90+ in September alone, something we have never seen before. For the first four days of October, the highs were 89, 91, 91, and 89, respectively. As I noted previously, 90 is not something to celebrate, but we had lots of days in the 85-89F range, and that is when the vines are at their most productive, giving us “…sunlight held together by water.” Total GDD for 2019 was the hottest growing season yet; we finished the season with 4184.5 GDDbase50F, about 69 GDD more than our previous record, set in 2018. We let our last bit of fruit hang until Saturday 19 October. We brought it in that morning, and that evening, we got 1.42” of rain.
Over the past 10 years, we have had some good wine from what I would have thought to be marginal years, with 2013 being a good example. It was a wet year too, and I had low expectations. It turned out to be one of my favorite vintages. Our 2017 wines are others that stand out to me, but I fully expect 2019 to be the best wine we have made so far. And it is not just us; I think across the board, the #ncwine community is going to have some spectacular bottlings.
The barn? Well, we have made some serious progress. We set the posts on 1 July, and had the building ready for roof trusses a couple of weeks later. We finished building most of the roof trusses in late July and early August, with just a couple left to have the number we needed. Then we basically abandoned the project to focus on harvest, because when the fruit is ready, it does not wait. We snuck a couple of days of construction in there to finish up the trusses, and then we found a mid-harvest day that wasn’t going to be spent picking grapes, we gathered a couple of good neighbors, and we set the roof trusses on 19 September. That was a big day, but we got all of the trusses set in about seven hours.
After that, another break in construction until harvest concluded, then we spent every not-raining day working on purlins and bracing. It is no exaggeration to tell you that I do not like heights, and working on the roof was a huge challenge for me, not least because of my own limitations. Eddie and I put the last piece of aluminum sheeting on the roof on 20 November, and we installed the ridge cap on 21 November. In my Instagram post that day, I said, “… It is my sincere hope that is our last time up there for at least 40 years!…” [Ed. note: Alas, the wind on Wednesday 4 Dec damaged two panels that we will have to replace. In the next paragraph, I refer to that trim that we still needed to place on the ends, and that is what ties the roof to the edge, and we just did not get it done in time.]
We still have a good bit of work to do, but we have made a lot of progress in the last few weeks. Roof is on, most of the siding is on, and all that is left to do up high are the trim pieces that tie the edge of the roof to the false rafters, work that will be done from the tractor and ladders. Then we will need to build the sliding barn doors, install walk-out doors, wire the lights, and run a water line.