By Leslie Gevirtz
TRURO, Massachusetts (Reuters Life!) - Cape Cod, the peninsula in Massachusetts shaped like a fighter's upraised arm jabbing into the North Atlantic, is famed for its sand dunes, salty air and the Kennedy family.
It also has vineyards that visitors flock to on rainy summer afternoons.
"We're a rainy day activity," said Kristen Roberts, whose father Dave, a veteran of the marketing and sales side of the wine business, bought Truro Vineyards four years ago from two horticulturists.
"They were lovely women and they had the background. They studied the soil and the climate and as a result planted Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc grapes," Dave Roberts said, pointing to the 3.5 acres under cultivation.
Most of the vines date back to 1991, he added.
Age is important for vines. Newly planted vines won't produce for three to four years, while vines older than 60 years don't produce as many bunches, though their grapes are filled with flavor and complexity.
Eighteen-year-old vines are moving into their prime.
"We have planted some Merlot. But we're wrestling with it," said the 68-year-old vintner.
Cape Cod is about 70 miles further north of the equator than Oporto, Portugal, home to world's finest port wines. Because it juts out into the North Atlantic, it rarely has a true snowfall, or long hot spells, but is plagued with humidity.
So even in mid-August, the Chardonnay grapes were quite green.
"Oh, we won't be harvesting much before mid-October," Roberts said. "We usually harvest about that time." By contrast, the harvest in Oporto usually starts a month earlier.
Consequently, most of the 9,500 cases produced annually are made from grapes trucked in from the central California coast where the growing season is longer, the days are warmer, and the harvest is earlier. Only the Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc wines are from the surrounding vineyards.
It's a family enterprise with Roberts' son, David, Jr. serving as one of the winemakers and his wife, Amy, handling the back-office details.
Roberts' wife, Kathy, manages the gift shop, which provides tourists with lighthouse-shaped bottles of red and white wines.
"You know, other guys, especially those whose businesses are based on the beach and beach weather, see all these tourists here and tell me, 'Wow, you must pray for rain,' he said.
"But I tell them, 'Not really. I need the sun to ripen these vines.'"