Drought Is ‘Bittersweet’ for Area Winery

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EUDORA, Kan. -- In a throwback to the I Love Lucy past, a group of locals kicked off their shoes and rolled up their pants to help turn grapes into something new.

"I stomp the grapes.  It kind of felt squishy and it kind of felt weird," said six-year-old Josephine Dee.

Her grandfather, Pep Selvan-Solberg owns BlueJacket Crossing Vineyard and Winery.  Sometimes, she helps him harvest the grapes.

"The red ones are like greenish purplish when they're bad so you just drop them on the ground and if they're good they're all blue or purple so you put them in the bucket you have," Josephine explained.  "Then there's a crusher in the barn over there, so either we do the crusher or the stomper or we do both at the same time like today.  First you have to make grape juice, then you have to make it sit to make wine."

But that`s all happening early this year for BlueJacket Crossing Vineyard and Winery due to the dry weather and intense temperatures.

"Anytime the heat gets above 95 degrees, our plants go dormant, so the fruit that's on the vine doesn't continue to grow and develop the sugar we need," said Pep Selvan-Solberg, who has owned the vineyard for the last 11 years.

Selvan-Solberg said the harvest at his vineyard has been about five weeks ahead of the schedule the last two years and this year he drain both ponds for irrigating his crop.

While that all means more work for BlueJacket Crossing, the owner said, despite the drought there is good news.

"We do get a more intense flavor.  there's less moisture in the grape so the flavor of the grape itself is concentrated," said Selvan-Solberg.

So while BlueJacket Crossing will maker about quarter fewer bottles than it anticipated, the wine it does produce will be a higher quality.That`s good news for local oenophiles - or wine lovers.

"You know what, life is too short, not to enjoy it, especially over a good bottle of wine," said frequent customer Terry Larsen.

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