Concord, VA - This summer's dry weather has affected some area vineyards. It's forced some winemakers, such as DeVault Family Vineyards, to harvest their crop a few weeks early.
They grow three different types of grapes on about 5,000 plants there. on Friday they were forced to harvest both varieties of their white grapes. They say that's about a week or so earlier than past years, and their red grapes might be ripening ahead of schedule, too.
All the white grapes have been picked, processed and bottled. Now, Terry DeVault's getting ready for the reds.
"When it's ready it's that day, some folks will ask me when are we gonna pick? And I'll say when the grapes are ready," said Terry DeVault, owner of DeVault Family Vineyards.
The red Nortons usually ripen mid to late September.
"One year it was almost October before we harvested the reds. It just depends on hot days and cool nights," said DeVault.
So DeVault uses a small tool to tell when the grapes are ready. He's able to see if the sugar levels are too high or too low.
"So you have to have x mount of sugar which the bricks for the whites have to be about 20 and the bricks for the reds have to be about 23 or 24," said Launcelot DeVault.
"I'm hoping to get an average of 23, when you get to 23 it's harvest time," said Terry DeVault.
The reds are almost ready a month ahead of schedule. But DeVault says that also depends on the weather.
"Within the last two to three weeks, you don't want any rain. you want it to be nice and dry," said Launcelot DeVault.
So that might mean a shorter break between harvest times. And it takes a whole team to tear through the vineyards. About 20 people will handpick thousands of grapes in just one day.
"Once you pick them they begin to decay so you want to crush them and press them right away," said Terry DeVault. "You don't have the luxury of saying I'll do it next week, because they will begin to fall off."
This year's white grape crop boiled down to about 2.5 tons. It's a third of the wine DeVault Family Vineyards usually makes. In past years, the vineyard's produced up to 10 tons of white grapes.
That means they lost at least $50,000 so far, but this year's white grapes will still make about 5,000 bottles of wine.