This year we had an optimal spring for bloom--winter seemed to go on forever, holding the trees back until any danger of a frost had passed. Grey and cold forever. People got depressed; I didn't. The bloom survived. Check, that hurdle passed. With the bloom and then fruitlets showing, the game was on. Autumn was on a sabbatical working for Forge Cellars on Seneca Lake as a vineyard manager, so to a large extent any mistakes in the orchard were mine to make during the crucial "bloom to post-scab" season. The insect pests vary from annoying to devastating, and are evolving with climate change; the fungal disease pressure goes with the weather. So for me, the question of the weather was how I might like it as a leaf hopper or plum curculio or apple scab spore.
Midsummer was hot and dry, verging on drought, and then it started to rain. From the beginning of August until now, it seems that it's never stopped raining. Just last night, we saw some of the worst flooding we can remember; it's the second time in ten years Cayuta Creek has gone over the 100 year flood mark. I have mixed emotions about the wetness. Fungal diseases in every direction; even the wood's trees are defoliating early. I would hate to be growing grapes now. On the other hand: our young trees, so vulnerable to drought, have taken off, and I imagine the future. It's always like this. What do you have now? Never mind, look around and imagine next year and the year after.
Each vintage is different, and each has a story to tell. With plenty of moisture and plenty of heat, the apples are ripening early with good sugar and lots of acid. So far, we have harvested some early heirloom varieties and Somerset Redstreak, a bittersweet. Last year was an "on" year for our bittersweets at our Albee Hill orchards. This year, they are sparse; the substantial tannic structure they provide to ciders like our Autumn's Gold may be in shorter supply. But the harvest has just begun, and our partner James' orchard site in Newfield is filled with fruit. There are surprises to come. We won't know for nine months the story of the 2018 growing season.
-Ezra Sherman, Orchardist and Cidermaker