Hot Summer Brings Early Harvest For Local Orchards, Vineyards

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DEFIANCE, MO (KTVI0-- Our early spring, combined with an extremely hot and dry summer is playing tricks on growers, moving the fall harvest for some items up to the dog days of summer.

At Sugar Creek Winery in Defiance, Missouri, one-third of the vines are already hollering, "pick me, pick me."

"We are harvesting everything three weeks to a month ahead of schedule," said Chris Lorch, winemaker at Sugar Creek.

"We decided to pick these at this point because half the fruit was sunburned," Lorch said.  "The fruit that was exposed to the sun, because of the extreme heat, the skin was starting to soften and bruise and turn brown in color so I was worried about rains coming later on that might cause the fruit to fall apart."

Meanwhile  it`s the apple crop that's almost ready to start falling off the trees at Eckert`s Orchard in Belleville.

"It is probably the biggest crop of apples we have had in five or six years," said Eckert`s President Chris Eckert.  "We are fortunate because almost all of our acreage is irrigated so the drought has not had a negative impact on the fruit or the size of the fruit because we have had plenty of water delivered to the tree."

At Sugar Creek, they started irrigating after the drought of 2007, so water is not the issue it once was.

But even watering 12 hours a day, the amount of juice being produced this year is down from last year's, making for a smaller but tastier grape.

"It will concentrate that acidity and that flavor and sugar," Lorch said.