Sunday morning dawned crisp and cold. And early. Despite my inclination to huddle into my comforter and cuddle up with my dogs, I had made a commitment to attend Harmony Hill's "Big Pick." It is harvest season in SW Ohio's wine country, and the overnight frost increased the urgency to gather the Chambourcin grapes that will be the next vintages of "Chamber Suite" and "Rubato." Besides, it was a not-to-be-missed blog opportunity! So, I hauled myself out of bed, put on several layers of my finest garb - Cuddle-duds, blue jeans and a sweatshirt - grabbed my work gloves and camera and headed out.
Bright yellow totes stacked in the vineyard await the bounty of the vines.
First, we had to pull back the netting used to protect the fruit from greedy birds.
Then, the bins were distributed along the row for the volunteer laborers to fill.
Bill, demonstrating the proper technique for picking grapes. You can tell he is a professional winemaker by his backwards-facing ball cap. By the way, the "work stools" were empty plastic buckets that formerly held kitty litter. No expense spared for the HH staff!
"Many hands make light work." We had two rows picked by the 10am coffee break.
Evan and Bill load up the Gator with full totes, capably assisted by a Harmony Hill dog.
Each bin holds about 25 pounds of grapes. Weights were recorded before stacking the bins.
A pallet of bins awaiting the next step in the journey.
A full pallet is transferred to the stemming machine, a piece of equipment used to crush the grapes and separate the fruit from the stems.Grapes and juice come out one side while the stems are spit out the other. Bill kindly invited me to climb up and see inside the top of the stemming machine, where a large auger propels the grapes along to their fate.
Once filled, the large plastic container is moved aside, and a new one is shoved into place.
I had to leave by noon, but the faithful were staying on. Because of the frost, Bill was anxious to pick nine rows of Cabernet grapes as well as the nine rows of Chambourcin he had originally planned for today. Once the leaves die back, the vines begin to pull energy from the grapes, and that had to be prevented at all cost. The future of Clermont County wine was at stake.