The dog days of summer are getting behind us, the kids are back to school, the nights cool quicker, and festivals are happening! Along with the turn of the season throughout the hemisphere, grapes ripen, and the astringently bitter little berries sweeten up and make themselves ready to become wine!
As verasion (pronounced Vay-ray-zoN) ends, which is where ripening begins and grapes take on their color, vineyard managers and farmers monitor their crop to ensure optimum ripening. Some like to see grapes with high acidity levels and lower sugars and some like to see the inverse. Each for their own reasons, thus creating differences between many wines and being a whole other topic. This leads to different harvest times between all the grape types. In a place like Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc may be one of the first to be ready in mid-August whereas Cabernet Sauvignon may be ready closer to the end of October and even as late as November. What this means is, harvest can last up to four months for some. Farmers, vineyard owners, and wineries can always use help at this time of year with this enormous task. It can be a great opportunity to see how the whole transformation from vineyard to bottle really begins. In fact, some of our local vineyards are always looking for help this time of year. Giving a call to any of these vineyards is one way to find out when your help would be needed, or even check out facebook as it may be group event they post. Sometimes it comes with wine or lunch, but it most certainly will be a learning experience. While the time may be passed as this is circulated, there is always a yearly opportunity to get in a vineyard. Picking the grapes and bringing them into the winery is where the next stage of magic begins.
So, getting your hands dirty may not be your thing, but what about your feet?? You may have to put on your way back cap to remember the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she stomped grapes for the first time. You could have the same opportunity this fall at the Kirkwood Grape Stomp September 21st and 22nd in Summersville. It’s not only a “Stomp”, they will be hosting a 5k, live music, and wagon races. Now crushing grapes is always part of the process, where stomping is part of the “Old World” romantic side of wine making. Dancing around with red feet with friends and a glass in hand sound like a good time to anyone, I’m Sure!
“I Love Lucy” Lucy’s Italian Movie (1956)
Once some juice has made its way from the grapes, fermentation can begin. Think for a minute how busy a winery can be, simultaneously harvesting, crushing, and beginning fermentation. There is a reason most wine makers take vacation right before harvest; they might not see daylight until Christmas. The process is ongoing, requires lots of attention, and a lot of labor. I’ll save this conversation for another column.
While harvesting and crushing may not be your bag, then maybe a little music and wine. Like I said in the beginning, cooler nights and more festivals. How about chilling out with some good vibes at the West Virginia Wine and Jazz Festival in Morgantown, Sept 21st and 22nd. Some tasty eats, good tunes, and great local and regional wines will be in attendance, why not join them there?
Getting outside and getting your hands or feet dirty at this time of year can be quite nice. All the “fruits” of our labor from the season start to come around, the leaves begin their transformation, and the afternoons cool off a little quicker. Simply a great time of year to enjoy.