MILL SPRING, N.C. (WSPA) – You may not think of our region as wine country. However, the National Association of American Wineries has North Carolina ranked as the 7th highest state in total wine production from just short of 200 wineries. More than a few wineries are in our area, and Fall weather plays a major role in their year. 

Justin Taylor is the winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard in Mill Spring, North Carolina. He’s hard at work this time of year. It’s harvest season.   

“Fall is a time that we capture everything we’ve been working towards as far as the growing season goes. What started in Spring when fruit set and what we’ve been able to bring to harvest…between the end of August and early October that’s when we’ve got to bring it all into the facility for turning it into wine,” Taylor said. 

Once they do, they machine-separate the grapes from their individual bunches. Taylor said that a lot of grapes go into making wine. 

“So a ton of grapes, you’re talking about 160 to 165 gallons. Roughly just north of 50 cases worth of wine,” he said. 

A vineyard is, of course, a farm. Weather is critical to how the crops develop, and that determines if it’s a good year or a bad one. Taylor has to keep a close eye on the timing of inclement weather.

“One of the biggest pressures that we have in North Carolina is hurricanes. Usually, we ride the gap of when there’s good weather and when those fronts roll in. And really getting that window of time, nice dry weather, lots of sunshine…that’s usually what will lead up to us getting some fruit picked and brought into the building…and some if it eventually has to ride the storm, that’s just the nature of the beast,” he said. 

How much, or how little, rain falls will determine what the final product is like. 

“With vintages just of recent note for me, 2013, 2020…high rainfall years, those were probably some of the most stressful, challenging years I’ve seen with high rainfall causing issues as we were approaching harvest,” Taylor explained. “Tracing it back to the other end of the spectrum: 2016, 2019…really dry years, really kind of quiet around harvest time as far as major weather pressure. Those drier conditions gave us higher sugar content, more preferable acid in the fruit, and really better ripening for the grapes.”

“The most rewarding part from the field during harvest is seeing good, happy, clean fruit coming into the cellar,” Taylor continued. “It’s a matter of having good fruit in order to get to good wine.”