Labor Day weekend will be here in a couple of days and that means one thing: I am about to become very busy with the Fall grape harvest! The first wine grapes of the season have already been picked, crushed, pressed and are fermenting away quietly in stainless steel tanks.
Just last weekend, at the winery where I work part-time, forty volunteer pickers (i.e., they picked for a donation to a charity of their choice) worked their way through three cold-hardy, white wine grape varietals – La Crescent whose small, golden berries were filled with sweetness and about to burst from the recent rains tasted delicious; St. Pepin, planted in between neighboring rows (because they need other grapes to pollinate) were green-yellow and full of bright flavors; and Briana teased the growers with her gorgeous voluptuousness and full-on fruity goodness.
In just a few short hours our volunteers had hand-harvested more than 8,000 pounds of wine grapes! We promptly dispensed with the grapes.
That is just the beginning. For the past several months I have been working with regional wine growers and negotiating prices for our wine club (Eastern Iowa Wine Club) – and on Saturday we’re at it again! Last year we purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000lbs and this year we surpassed 9,000lbs – and the logistics alone is a bit overwhelming! Trying to manage club member purchases, grape grower requirements, transportation, and crush-pad plans – sheesh, “what did I get myself into?”
I know its crazy-busy now but in about 6 weeks the rush will be over and our wines will be peacefully fermenting and all will be quiet. But right now the grape volume is about to get cranked up! This coming Saturday we will pick up Frontenac grapes (about 2.5 hours from here) from a grower south of Des Moines and on Sunday many of our club members will be hand picking Marechal Foch at a friend’s vineyard bright and early.
There are still lots of choices to be made: 1) do we crush and press the Foch right away or let it macerate for a few hours? 2) do we give the delestage technique a try (removing the seeds from the ferment)? 3) yeast selections? 4) enzymes? 5) fermentation temperatures? 6) and many other questions we haven’t even thought about yet.
The grapes will keep coming and coming until one day it will be over. There is a bitter-sweet aspect to the harvest season – it is exciting, exhausting, thrilling, frustrating -- and a lot of fun!
Have you ever tried a port-inspired Frontenac wine? Oh, it’s goooood.! Like I said…Fun.