A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Reaping The Fruits of Our Labor

I will never have to try to remember this day, August 11, 2010.  A day of symbolism, anticipation, of determination and termination.   A day to literally measure the fruit of our labors, in pounds, brix and pH, all measurements of the present, to be bottled up for the future.  I will only once in my life experience these hours of my very first harvest.
The night before I laid in bed rehearsing, going through the steps of the day to come.  Never having organized a harvest, I ran through my mind all the scenarios I could concoct... not enough lugs, collecting the lugs, too many lugs, not enough room in the truck, too much room in the truck! Cut fingers, not enough fingers.   I felt a bit blind, like I could not quite see the day ahead, only imagine it with a blurred, uncertain vision.

 I woke up as the light of day lifted from behind the mountain ridge.  It was 80° when we went to bed and it was 80° when we woke up.  The   air was thick, moist and still.  Not even the hint of a breeze on this, the muggiest morning of the entire season.  I would have loved to have harvested our grapes on a clear morning of cool, soft breezes, singing birds, humming pickers... idyllic images.  But this morning not a bird could be heard, not a leaf  a'fluttering.  But the grapes were ready and so were we.

Lugs were set out at the bottom of each row.  The netting was dropped, the vines undressed, the grapes exposed.   I reviewed to our small army of pickers the logistics of snipping, what not to pick, the dropping (ever so gently) into the lugs, how high to fill the lugs, where to move them, and so on.  With that, I sent the troops into the vines.  Charge!  Onward we go, into the great moment of harvest.

As we made our way through the rows, I stopped for a moment to take it all in.  An unexpected feeling of melancholy hit me as I looked at a naked row of  vines.  The canes were vacant, barren.  Their purpose fulfilled.  The vines had borne fruit and now would come their time of rest... and quiet.  T'was a bittersweet moment, for I had grown to so love the sight of these dangling clusters of purple berries against the green leaves and blue skies. 
 Before.... and after

It took us over four hours to harvest our little acre of vines.  But the extra time it took in the vineyard would save us time at the sorting table at the winery; the picking was clean.. no leaves to have to pluck out later.  The grapes were clean,  nary a single grape showed any sign of disease or rot.  I saw that as our first true measurement of success.  A season of meticulous care had paid off!

After the last row was cleared of fruit, we rushed to collect all the filled lugs.  We wanted to get the grapes out of the heat, into the truck and on their way to the winery one and a half hours away.  Nathan jumped behind the wheel of the truck, and he and Dennis rushed down the mountainside.  If there had been red flashing lights and a siren, he would have been using them in his "rush to the emergency room" mode!  Get these heated grapes into the cooler as fast as we can! 

When all was quiet, after everyone had left the vineyard, I sat at the picnic table with a bottle of water.  My clothes and hair wet from the heat and humidity.  My feet so very sore after a frenzied few days.  The Pinot grapes were gone.  It should have been a time of great reflection, but I was too tired and consumed with the need to get into my car and drive up to the winery to witness the next phase of our grapes' journey.  I drove up to the house for a quick shower, looking over my shoulder at the vineyard.  The years of striving for a harvest of healthy grapes.. Done!  And from those grapes, a wine of high quality that expresses the site from which it came...We're halfway there!
The thrill of victory... but oh, the agony of de'feet!   I feel a nice cool footbath comin'!

Next.... At the winery!!!

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