By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Photo, of grapes ripening before harvest, courtesy of Hunt Country Vineyards
What is harvest like as we cross into November? Hunt Country Vineyards owner Art Hunt wrote about the back-breaking work, the beautiful images and the speed of the harvest crew.
Instead of excerpting it, I'm posting Art's entire vivid description below.
The day started out at 27 degrees.There was an incredibly thick white frost on everything, making the roofs look like it had snowed. The sun comes up earlier now that we are back on EST and the fog lay thick on the lake below. At 7 a.m., Jon and Bill were already setting up the crusher-stemmer and must pump to crush and refill the red fermenters emptied the day before. Today we are crushing 12 tons of cabernet franc hand-picked on Sunday.
The faithful picking crew started this morning at 6:30 a.m. on a three-acre young Chambourcin vineyard. Sunday afternoon we picked up, emptied and redistributed enough boxes to supply the pickers for a couple of hours this morning.
Today we need to pick up the rest of the cab franc, quickly spread more boxes and then gather the six tons of Chambourcin. Our picking up crew is mainly composed of enthusiastic retired guys. This is back breaking work. Luckily we have Bob Wilder on the trailer who seems to have back muscles of steel. Hour after hour he takes the 30-40 lb. boxes of grapes as fast as they come and quickly dumps the grapes into a large bin on the trailer and stacks the boxes. At the end of each row, the empty boxes are set off in stacks. I take another tractor and small trailer and reload the boxes on the trailer and quickly take them to the Chambourcin vineyard. The picking crew boss helps me spread the boxes to stay ahead of the picking crew. The grapes pick incredibly fast as the bunches are very large and the leaves are gone. They can pick as many as 20 boxes per hour per person.
By 9 a.m. we have finished spreading the boxes and I return to the pickup crew to help with the lifting. Meanwhile, the fog from the lake has crept up the hill, enveloping us in a thick brilliant white fog.
It was surreal -- like some people imagine heaven!
We could not see the end of the row. Vineyard manager Dave met us at the end of each row and replaced our full bins with empties so we could keep picking up the boxes.
By noon we had finished the cab franc and were nearly done with the Chambourcin. The fog had lifted and we were again in brilliant sunshine.
After lunch we finished the last of the hand-picked boxes and then started harvesting Catawba with our grape harvester. In about half an hour an acre was harvested with about 4 tons brought in.
I went to White Springs winery in Geneva and picked up 3 tons of beautiful cabernet sauvignon grapes. Returning about 5, the rest of the crew had been sent home and Jon and I crushed those grapes. Then I spent two hours rinsing the crusher and pump and hoses while Jon did tests and made additions to the musts and punched down the caps on the reds.
At 8:30 as we were finishing, we had a fire call and spent an hour standing by at the fire station. 9:30 home to dinner and checking emails.
A long but productive day.