Friday, October 07, 2011

Harvesting grapes 2011

Hilary picked the white grapes two weeks ago. They were at peak sweetness and ready to roll. Last night, Ron picked half of the Concords. Frost nipped the upper leaves of the vines clinging to the trellis and recent winds have cleared them out. Exposed to the dry air, some of the grapes were beginning to move toward raisins. That’s not a problem for our process since raisins are actually sweeter than grapes. But, hornets seek out the liquid in grapes, especially when there’s a lack of rain. They’ll suck out the juice and leave empty skins. Now that is a problem.

Ron clipped the grape clusters from the vines just as the sun set. All of the daytime bugs had already clocked out and gone home. We sat down to watch “Big Bang Theory” and while Sheldon rolled the dice to make decisions in his daily life, to free up brain space for loftier thoughts, we hand de-stemmed 21 pounds of grapes.

A larger enterprise would use a mechanized de-stemmer but our small operation allows for hand separation of inferior grapes, sticks and stems. I’ve heard that winery standards allow one Asian beetle per bushel of fruit. I guarantee, there are no orange dotted beetles in our grapes.

I just finished harvesting the other half of the Concords. Neither a less than gentle breeze nor a sudden burst of rain could lessen my pleasure in this moment all of those early spring days of pruning and summer days of weeding and wondering work to produce. The entire growing season stretches to this day of physical exertion in breaking of the grape clusters’ natural joints of separation or using my favorite old clippers to cut then drop the clusters on the growing pile in a five-gallon bucket. My senses are tuned to the job. I even notice the glimmer of a multitude of grapes simultaneously reflecting my hand in their individual highlights.

I can’t help but plan for next year’s harvest. We’ll move the Frontenacs that have spent the summer in the soft ground of the garden. They’ll fill the newly landscaped south-facing slope in front of the vinegary. Perhaps we’ll add even more. And then there are those new sweet cherries to try. And maybe a few more apple trees.