As Hurricane Earl threatens the East End, wineries on Long Island are battening down the hatches to protect their harvests. Winemaker Charles Massoud, of Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue, says he’s anxious but is trying to remain optimistic. “I woke up this morning at 4 o’clock and couldn't get back to sleep,” he said. “But the reality is, we are concerned, but at the same time hopeful.”

Because of the consistent heat, abundant sunshine and lack of rainfall in the region this summer -- which created ideal conditions for growing and ripening grapes -- winemakers at Long Island’s 59 vineyards had been hoping 2010 would be a banner year.

At Paumanok, harvesting began three weeks ahead of schedule. Now, with the storm looming, Massoud said staff are working around the clock. They’re scrambling to apply a protective spray on vines to prevent rot and are prepared to spray again after the rain, if necessary. But the wind will be a bigger concern, Massoud said. “If we get winds of 80 to 90 mph, it could wreak havoc with the vines and, therefore, there may be a lot of work after.”

Marco Borghese, co-owner of Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery in Cutchogue, is taking a wait-and-see approach. “We are very nervous, but what can we do?” he said, adding that workers at the vineyard will wait until it stops raining before spraying their vines. “If it wasn't for the storm, we would probably be harvesting on Friday, but we are delaying that because we can’t harvest in the rain.”


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In 2005, “when it rained for 10 or 12 days, that was really a disaster for us,” Borghese said. “But now it’s only going to be for a few hours. I don’t think the winds will be such that we’ll have a very damaging situation,” he added, “and as far as the amount of water, we’ll probably harvest the next day so the water doesn't have time to go down to the roots. We are not rushing to do anything. This storm will be very intense and very short, from what I understand.”

At Pugliese Vineyards in Cutchogue, no one was available to comment Thursday afternoon. All hands were on deck harvesting the pinot grigio and chardonnay grapes in anticipation of the storm. It was the first time in the vineyard's 30-year history that a harvest had begun in August.

If you're growing grapes -- or tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, etc. -- bring in the ripe ones before Earl gets them.