Everyone thinks that fall is the season for Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING…Well that is where I differ from the trend. Fall to me equals HARVEST! Of course it is harvest season in all agricultural fields but the one I really care about is the vineyard and wine harvest. Last week I spent an entire day consumed by harvest. One day, in consideration, is nothing in comparison to the hours and hours of manual labor that goes into a full vineyard harvest, but it was nice to be included for a small portion.
I started my morning early driving out to Mountain Home, where a small (I mean SUPER small) winery was hosting a “picking day”. This is where they ask volunteers to come out to pick their grapes, in return each legal adult was given a bottle if wine and lunch was provided for every attendant as well. We picked a block (which is a section of a vineyard, generally measured by rows) of Vignoles, which is a hybrid grape varietal that was originally developed by J.F.Ravat and was the result of a cross made in 1930 using the complex hybrid wine grape Seibel 6905 and a clone of Pinot Noir known as Pinot de corton.
I arrived after most of the attendees, but only shortly after the starting time of the event. With this being such a small winery (averages making 700-1,000 bottles of wine a year) we had finished picking all the grapes on the block in about two hours. This was perfect because by 11am the heat of the sun soon was warming the morning air and would have started to heat the grapes as well, changing their taste characters and textures.
Then lunch was served! This is what I love about attending these events, not just for the free food and wine, but the community. I have said time and time again about how the wine industry is a community that encompasses a single common denominator…wine! It is easy to start chatting with a total stranger when you know you have at least SOMETHING in common with them, and wine is the perfect equalizer in any setting.
It wasn’t long after lunch had ended that all the guests had left, but who am I to leave? They were about to start crushing (which is also called de-stemming) and press (which is exactly that, pressing all the juices out of the grapes). This is a fascinating time to be at a winery because every winery does things a little differently. What I loved about visiting Sweetbriar Vineyard and Winery, was seeing how small this process can really be when you are a tiny production. They had a hand cranked de-stemmer, and their press was basically a water bladder at the cord of a mesh screen that expands to put pressure on the grapes to crush the skins to let the juices flow. This is the smallest version of this operation I’ve ever seen! And this is where my “wine nerd” comes out! Soon it was time for me to leave to go to my next harvest event! This “event” per say wasn’t necessarily on the agenda but I am systematically checking off wineries I’ve visited in the state of Idaho and one I had tasted many times but never visited was Indian Creek Winery in Kuna. We stumbled on an event at Indian Creek that the winery holds for it’s wine club members every Sunday, “Sunday-Funday”. Wine Club members get to enjoy live music on the front lawn, sipping on wine and generally enjoying one another’s company. Once again everything comes back to that community essence in the wine industry. Whether it is out harvesting grapes, enjoying live music, being educated about the industry, going with friends to “Sunday-Funday”, taking your family out to play corn hole in the vineyard…it is all about a wine loving community.
The last stop of my harvest Sunday was at Telaya Wine Co. in Garden City. They were hosting their second in their “vineyard education” classes series. Were we, as the consumers were able to join the winemaking team for a harvest tour education. We learned about the winemaking process from when we bring the grapes into the building to when we put them into barrel that is specific to Telaya Wine Co…because every winery does things differently.
This is why I love and love to work in this industry! Because no two wineries are the same, the grapes could be from the same vineyard but the end result of wine will NEVER be duplicated by anyone else. Between that and the community aspect of this industry there is really no place to go wrong!
More to come!
Traveling Photographer Out!