The weather on the east coast has finally turned to fall. We were enjoying an Indian summer that in my opinion was a filled with more summer weather than most of the actual summer. When you own a vineyard you look forward to the fall because it’s the beginning of the picking season. Amanda and I made the three-and-a-half hour journey from Pittsburgh to Maryland for the harvest of our Regent and Cab Franc grapes. We spent the morning reaching into the grape leaf canopy with sheers to hand trim the best clusters. You give the purple bunches a good visual inspection and with the practiced hands of a picker trim away any ruined grapes or bugs before dropping them in your basket on the ground. You work your way along the vines kicking baskets along with your boots until they’re filled and you move on to an empty basket.
The baskets are then collected by a small tractor with a cart and taken to the de-stemmer team. A group of people do a second visual inspection of the grapes, getting rid of any rotten or bug infest bunches that were missed. The remaining grapes are dumped into a large machine with a cork screw at the top that pushes the bunches into a mechanism that seems like a rotating colander. It strips the grapes from the stems and dumps them out into large vats. We let the grapes sit in the large vats with the lids on and store them as the first stage of fermentation begins. The work is hard and we have a lot more to do before the day’s effort ends up in a bottle. But you don’t grow grapes because it’s easy; you do it for the love of the challenge and the love of wine.