This morning, my sister Aimee and I arose before dawn and traveled to nearby Celina, Texas to participate in our first grape harvest at Eden Hill Vineyard. They supplied gloves, buckets, and nifty little grape razors to free the grapes from the wine. Aimee and I volunteered to be “crushers,” though we had no idea what that meant.
The weather was cool, almost chilly — quite a change from our blistering summer heat. We learned how to remove the grapes, gently, and fill the buckets for crushing. As crushers, we loaded the grape clusters onto a conveyor belt to be crushed between two rollers that separated the grapes from their stems. No stomping the grapes with our feet — aren’t you glad?
Getting the grapes on the conveyer belt was a bit crazy. We could only put so many grapes on each shelf without bruising the grapes. One person “dumped” the grapes from the harvest bins into the conveyor bin, while many hands sorted, stacked, sifted for leaves and sticks. If you’ve ever seen the classic I Love Lucy Season 2 episode in the candy factory where Lucy and Ethel scrambling to wrap the chocolates on the moving belt, that’s totally how we felt today. We just had to laugh. At least we tried!
During the crushing process, our Eden Hill hosts received a call from a sister winery, Square Hill, asking for help harvesting their viognier grapes. We give up our crusher assignments, and picked up the gloves and clippers for harvest, Round 2. A group of us caravan-ed down the road to the winery, and spent the next hour or so with new hosts. By this time of the morning, however, the sun was in full scorch-shine mode.
We returned to Eden Hill in time for a wonderful catered lunch. Fortunately, we had an opportunity to chat with wine maker Chris Hornbaker. Poor guy was trying to eat, but we kept peppering him with questions. He’s extremely passionate about the winemaking process — which sounds like an incredibly complicated chemistry experiment. He adopted stainless steel and square barrels for a more sustainable winemaking footprint. He shared the sad tale of oak barrels that are made from 200 year old trees, yet only last for five years in service to wine making. They also collect rainwater on the property to irrigate the vines, and cleanse all the barrels and equipment. You can try it in their wine room, when you come visit Eden Hill. It’s a bit of heaven in a glass. And the wine too!
What had a fabulous time today. We made new friends, experienced our first harvest crush, and learned a bit about the winemaking process. Now I’m curious to learn more. Bottling comes next. I’m in!