During the last hot humid days of September, 2007, after having scouted several natural areas over the preceding months, I was rewarded with a nice, albeit very small batch of wild grapes from which I would make my first gallon of wild grape wine.
If you have ever picked wild grapes to make jam, jelly or in my case wine, you'll appreciate the effort it takes. Unlike their trained cousins growing on a chest-high trellis ready for easy picking these tiny, wild rascals grow on old fences, bushes, and climb into the heights of nearby trees. Not easy to find. Not easy to pick. Add to that the mosquitoes, briers, and poison ivy -- now we're talking fun!
Seriously though, making wine from wild grapes is satisfying - both in terms of the amount of effort required and the wine made/consumed. The fact IS not many folks take the time to make wild grape wine. I remember when we bottled those first few bottles of Wild Grape wine last year and after sampling a bit I was shocked...shocked by how good and earthy it was.
Early last summer, my brother drove the 1,100 miles from Maryland for a visit with us (he was here for a crush party too - of fresh grapes from Chile). Later that night I opened the first bottle (of 5) of our Wild Grape and we sat on in our 3-season porch on a pleasantly warm evening and sampled the wine (13.5% alc). Just like I remembered -- yummy! By bottles end it was about time for bed.
After the Eastern Iowa floods of 2008 we scoured the landscape for wild grapes, but many of the locations we had from the year before were inundated with water and did not produce grapes this year. With the help of a friend, he led us to his fathers house south of Des Moines where we were to harvest wild plums...instead we found a good supply of wild grapes. We ended up harvesting over 26 pounds (post stemming) and placed the grapes into my freezer to wait until winter to begin fermentation. So today, on a -8F sunny Saturday, we freed the wild grapes to begin thawing. In a day or so (when the must is warmed enough) we'll introduce the yeast and wait for the onset of fermentation.
I'm excited about working with these grapes and feel grateful I can borrow from the natural areas of Iowa and craft a truly unique wine.