Grape Harvest is Bigger than Fruit!
The sun peeks over the mountain to our east; the heavy fog begins to lift off of the vineyard and nearby pasture. The brisk morning air helps rouse my senses this early in the morning as a crew of invited harvesters starts to assemble on the winery’s crush pad. As everyone greets one another the excitement for this year’s harvest is almost palpable. For six years, we have been caring for, cultivating and selling fruit but finally we get to take it to the next level with wine production. My nerves were so frazzled that I barely slept 4 hours the night prior but somehow I seem to be bounding with energy.
My new found fondness for harvest is hard to explain but I think I am getting closer to being able to describe it. It starts with the camaraderie involved among pickers. Many seem to share the passion I feel, while some are less open with their enthusiasm but continue to show up. One of my favorite aspects of harvest is to watch the interaction in the field and amusement people seem to gather from the activity. An amazingly diverse group of neighbors, local friends, family and other life-long friends from around the world work side-by-side while engaging in a unique banter. You hear conversations about religion, golf, health, government, work, fishing and life while a handful of individuals inject humor at appropriate (and inappropriate) times. The bustle provides an amazing opportunity for complete strangers to meet and talk on an equal plane with absolutely zero judgment or criticism; tell a bad joke or curse a little and no one holds it against you. It is an opportunity to feel like a kid again, and laugh unabated for a few hours. Agricultural work seems to have this unique ability and is what brings people back year after year.
Aside from the enjoyment I get from watching our friends and family participate in harvest together, there is the excitement of taking the fruit from the field. This process is a physical realization of one year’s labor and planning. After the frenzy ends for the day, it provides a brief but wonderful moment to reflect on our fruit’s quality and helps us determine if we played our cards right throughout the prior year.
This year, my increasing fondness for harvest is amplified by the fact that our 2016 harvest represents a large change for the farm. We will transition from being a commercial vineyard to becoming a farm winery. Our fruit will transform into a finished product to be sold to the consumer directly onsite. This exciting change comes after 6 years of hard work and transformation of the property. It is a strange, but delightful, feeling to see a 6 year project enter its final stretch into wine production. Everyone in the field has watched the project from its infancy and seemed echo the same delight.
So the next time I, or any other vineyard owner, enthusiastically ask you for help harvesting, consider what effect a quiet, dewy morning in the country could have on your emotional well-being while joining in on some fellowship and laughter. Remember that somehow it has more to do with people than fruit!
A huge THANK YOU to Kristen H photography for so many great photos over the years. Her work inspired an entire “Harvest” page on the site: http://iheartvirginiawine.com/harvest/