Don’t debate, celebrate

09/09/2010 12:00 AM |

So long, Earl. Hello, harvest time.

The East End was not buffeted by hurricane force winds last week, nor was it drenched by tropical rains. That’s good news for everyone, particularly the agricultural industry and most especially our prize-winning wineries. The sun is out, temperatures are seasonally moderate and now vintners can turn their attention to bringing in what many believe will be a crop of exceptional quality and use their skills to create an equally exceptional vintage.

Hot, dry weather is what grapes like best. Smaller berries equal more concentrated flavors and the best wines this region has produced came from hot, dry growing seasons.

While grape-growing conditions have been optimal, vineyard operators have faced a challenging year from a public relations point of view. Many have drawn sharp criticism, accused of placing too heavy an emphasis on concerts and other events. But the flip side is that a winery, like any other business, needs every possible advantage to remain commercially viable under less than stellar economic conditions.

It will be a while before this year’s grapes become wine, particularly the red varieties. Still, this is the start of the much-anticipated harvest season, a time when the North Fork really shines. Visitors from all over will make the trip out east to pick pumpkins, taste freshly roasted corn and sample an impressive variety of wines that compare favorably with those bottled in California and overseas. Local governments may or may not consider imposing new restrictions on special events at wineries and other agricultural lands.

Whatever happens, it’s time to dial down the disputes and put a cork in controversy. The harvest season is a time to celebrate the bounty that our farmlands produce. There’s still some agricultural activity south of the Peconic, but up here is where it’s at. Farms once spread east all the way from Brooklyn, but one by one communities to the west of us plowed under their farm heritage. Not here. The North Fork ag industry, in its many forms, is thriving. That’s what we need to keep in mind and that’s the foundation we should build upon.