Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Passion of Prince Edward

Photos from harvest can be found at http://ontariowinediva.blogspot.com

It’s that time of the year again and we all know it here in Ontario. It’s the time of the year where we all want summer to last one more day, to be able to wear sandals one last time, to not have to wear a jacket when we go out of the house. In the vineyards of this province, winemakers and winery owners all hope for one more day of sun and heat, to get the Brix level of the grapes up one more degree, to not have rain and, in the case of some grapes, to not have any frost when we leave the house in the morning to head to the vineyards.

Another way to describe this time of year in our vineyards is “IT’S HARVEST TIME!” On Facebook, you see the different wineries who have groups and fan pages publicizing events all related to the harvesting of grapes. For those wineries that do not use mechanical harvests, which is a very large percentage of our wineries, this is the time of year when they are looking for as many helpers as they can possibly get their hands on because it is quite literally a race against time to get those grapes off the vines before the first frost arrives. For all of those reality TV show buffs out there, this is the Amazing Race of the wine world. This particular year harvest – for the most part – started the final weekend of September so, for the smaller wineries, they are anywhere from half to two-thirds through their harvesting and, since I was running a wine dinner in Kapuskasing the first weekend of harvest, my first weekend to help harvesting was the first weekend in October – the 4th and the 5th. Normally, I only do one weekend because harvest is a lot of work and it will inevitably cause a lot of aches and pains but there were so many requests being made by so many wineries, I decided to help out multiple wineries over the multiple weekends. My first weekend was spent at Lacey Estates Winery and, originally, it was only going to be just the Saturday but after dinner, and a great after dinner drink, I decided it would be prudent to not drive and stay out in Prince Edward County to help them finish up harvesting the Baco Noir. Boy, am I ever glad I did so because I had the opportunity to help out punching down the cap on a set of wines that had been harvesting for a week and, the next day, needed to go through the press because the wine had finished fermenting a couple of days earlier than expected. Although there is a definite reason why Baco Noir is commonly referred to as “back breaking baco noir”, it was definitely an interesting experience and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, even with my hands being the colour of royal purple that they were.

If you have never experienced a harvest season first hand, there are several wineries that are still looking for help. Depending on the winery, and the people who own it, some of them have day jobs that keep them busy during the week and that, inevitably, requires them to hold off on actual harvesting until their days off. Both Lacey Estates Winery and the winery I will be helping out at next weekend – Karlo Estates – are in that situation and, as a result, their harvests are spread out over three weekends. Both of these wineries, plus a few others in the area, are going to be doing their final harvest on Thanksgiving weekend. If you are not already doing something else, all of these wineries would love the extra hands. Check out the picture gallery on my blog site to see pictures from last week’s harvest to see what a harvest actually looks like.
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