Monday, November 5, 2012

Assessing Sandy's wine industry impact in NY/NJ

Surveying damage at Brooklyn's Red Hook Winery.
(Nona Brooklyn photo)
The impact of superstorm Sandy on New York's wine industry is spotty.

Upstate -- particularly in the Finger Lakes and in the Capital Region -- the impact was fairly miniscule since the vast majority of the grape crop had been harvested. Some portion of the late harvest that eventually will provide the base for ice wines may be impacted, but the exact amount remains to be seen.

On Long Island and in New York City, where power losses and high winds knocked most facilities, residences and other businesses offline for several days, the story is different.

Most of the Long Island wineries clustered on the North Fork in Suffolk County got off relatively easy, again because the harvest had been completed. In addition, some of the wineries' staffs had moved inventory to higher spots because they had undergone some damage during Hurricane Irene last year and, thus, were experienced in damage control.

However, in Brooklyn -- on the far west coast of the island -- the Red Hook Winery was virtually wiped out.

The winery is situated on a pier in Red Hook, a port in Upper New York Bay. At the height of the storm, debris carried by five feet of water washed through the facility and shattered hundreds of barrels of wine and most of the equipment.

"It’s all the wine we had," head winemaker Christopher Nicolson told the website Nona Brooklyn. "It takes a couple of years to make our wines and this year’s fruit harvest is basically finished, so we won’t really even be able to start making wine again until next year’s harvest, a year from now. It’s just devastating."

In hard-hit New Jersey, most of the wineries were spared the total devastation suffered along the Atlantic seashore.

"This storm did a lot of damage to the outer bank, a lot of coastal flooding,” said Jack Tomasello of Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, NJ, located in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA, 35 miles inland from Atlantic City.

He told the Wines & Vines website, "Most of the wineries are inland in New Jersey, and there was very little damage to them."

While the immediate damage assessment is being made, some are looking to future impact. If grape growers find that storm damage will force them to replant vines, it could take three of more years for the vines to become productive and an entire vintage, or major part of one, could be lost before then.

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