Monday, March 3, 2014

The 2013 Crop Report

2013 Vintage, the Year of Plenty
 Unlike most farmers, for wine and cider makers the season does not conclude at harvest.  In fact, the collection of fruit is just the halfway point in a season that extends 12 months or more.  Think of the harvest like the caterpillar/ butterfly cocoon stage, cider emerges in a different form but the new appearance is the extension of the same life.  That said, we annually release our crop report in the spring rather than the fall because the winter affects this new life form just as much as the summer influences the apple.
   The 2013 year for apples here in the northeast will be remembered as a year of plenty.  An average weather season start-to-finish saw no significant frost damage, no setbacks from cicadas (as was expected) or other pests, the heat spell of July did not couple with humidity and we dodged a blight year, and the fast fall of September reversed course in October extending the season slightly later than usual.  This last part was welcome news for farmers because it took a long time to harvest the near record quantities of apples during this “on-year”, which was doubly bountiful a year after 2012’s decimating frost.  (Apple trees which are naturally biennial and triennial but they respond to reproductive interruptions like frost by putting out greater fruit quantities at their next opportunity.)  The pear crop was the exact opposite.  Pears survived the 2012 frost and produced a full crop the that year, and in turn, they took 2013 off to recover.  We foraged 6 bushels of wild pears compared to 220 bushels wild apples.  

  That’s the apples.  The cider, on the other hand, was adversely affected by the warm spell of October.  The early apples fermented too quickly and they will not play a significant roll in the blends, save for their tannic or acidic properties.  But the late apples were set-up perfectly by a frigid late autumn/ early winter.  The cellar temperature was a perfect 55 degrees December 21st and it slowly dropped at the ideal rate corresponding the sugar-to-alcohol conversion.  The ciders pressed in November and December reached 90% dryness and stopped fermenting in February when the cellar hit 48.  Now in March it is at 45.  We have never fermented in consistently frigid winter such as this, temperatures in each of the 4 winter months have been below zero, and the ciders have yet to clear and finish.  We hope for cosmetic reasons the turbidity breaks with the spring warm up, but if it does not clear we can say with sincerity that this unique vintage has found a visual way to express the season.