Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wine Making Part I

I am now in my fifth year being involved at a local Montessori Center.  Each year the center holds its annual fund-raising event.  This past year my husband and I purchased tickets to participate in a "Be the Wine Maker" event at Rappahannock Cellars.  I would like to share with you, Part I of this incredible  experience.  

The date for the harvest of Norton grapes (any grapes) depends upon what the season brought.  Being a dry season, the grapes were ready almost 1 month earlier than usual.  On short notice our group of about 40 people were notified that the grapes were ready.  On the designated date only about 20 of us showed up at 8:30 am ready to do some work!  Thus the day began with coffee and doughnuts, simple instructions, our brand new cutters, and 1 bucket.

Yes, we did eat some.  These grapes are SWEET and scrumptious!
The sun grew hotter, the harvest continued, water was offered to thirsty participants, and we were loving it!  It took us about 4 hours to harvest 1 acre, totaling 2.3 tons of grapes.  Once the buckets were full we emptied them into these big bins.

All the bees and wasps were enjoying the harvest as well. 
By 1pm we completed the last row!  Imagine a bunch of red-faced and sweaty people, cuts on their hands, scratches on arms, red grape stains everywhere, bugs flying, and the sweet smell of grapes (fresh ones and even shriveled ones).  That is what it was like.  We had to complete the job...the wine depended upon our work.  There was no quitting!  The sun was high and hot but we all did it, and with JOY!  We all felt such a mutual sense of accomplishment.  It was awesome....I would do it again...but start earlier in the day....maybe 5am?

So what came next?  We were given a fantastic BBQ lunch accompanied with fantastic wine.  We then gathered around to the back of the winery where we saw the fruits of our labor.  These crates were lifted up and emptied into a destemming machine.  This is what it looked like:

There is the owner (our host) emptying the grapes into the destemmer.  The winemaker is putting an empty crate underneath  to catch them at the other end.
There they go!  On the far left, in the back you can see all the full crates.

So what was the logical thing to do next?  Yes, it was time to STOMP!  One couple even decided to dance on the grapes.  It felt good to stomp on those wonderful little grapes we had gotten to know so well that day.

So that was it!  We got our shoes back on, were given a complimentary bottle of wine (for all our extra hard work), and took a group photo.  My husband and I were tired, dirty, and sunburned.  As we walked at a snails pace back to our car, feeling good about the day, we talked about the coming winter when we have a chance to taste from the barrel.  Some grapes will be used for a Norton wine, others will be used for port.  That will be Part II.


  1. What a wonderful experience! I had no idea you could do that at a winery! I can't wait for part 2!

  2. Yikes! 4hrs and over 4,000lbs of grapes!


    Mr. Wiggins