Monday, September 01, 2008

2008 Seyval Harvest

Despite the 8/10 an inch of rain the night before, gerald tested the brix of the seyval, munched a few grapes and announced that the seyval harvest was on. so gerald&i, dad byrne, and uncle pete gathered in the proofing vineyard early on saturday and harvested the seyval blanc. the weather was overcast, cool, but humid. everyone was ready to harvest quickly and process the grapes back to pete&lyrel's farmhouse. our hoped-for lugs did not come through, but we had our buckets from the previous year and with 2 previous harvests under our belts, felt comfortable that we would be able to harvest without issue.

three quarters into harvesting 361 pounds of delicious white grapes and we realized we did not have enough containers. the boys decided to send me to the hardware store with boy1&2 for more containers. half way to the store and my surprise visitors—my mom and dad—called to tell me they had arrived. for boy2, this was especially funny: "your mom and dad? your mom and dad will be at the farm? mimi? grandpa? but why would they be at the farm?" it tickles the 5 year old when the world does not operate on its usual spin cycle. upon seeing their mimi and grandpa, the boys wanted to show the farm off and so ger's dad was then dispatched to the hardware store.

we gave a tour of the proofing vineyard, the treehouse in progress (and the desperate need for a zip line from the treehouse to the tobacco barn), lot 11 and the second year vines, the christmas trees their daddy planted when he was a boy, and the pawpaw patch. after the tour, we walked back up the big hill, met up with the harvest crew and headed back to pete&lyrel's house for grape processing.

this harvest was a little unusual. if you look at the sea of seyval berries in the photo above, you will see tiny, hard little grape berries among the clusters of seyval. gerald speculates these hard green little grape berries are the product of the unusually wet and extremely hot weather during bloom. uncle pete wonders if it isn't part of how the varietal grows—but at any rate, ger decided that what we were calling the "little green bebes" must not enter the crush. so the hand processing of the grapes included the removal of the offending immature grape berries. and there were many immature grape berries to be removed.

here is the 2008 sevyal processing gang. harvest was over by 10am. we started the processing shortly after and did not finish until after 4pm. we sorted the grapes, but found that there were so many immature green grapes, that it largely became a huge hand destemming operation. luckily, the back porch is wide, cool, and catches nice breezes. all sorted and destemmed grapes went into the big grey crush tub, newly purchased for this harvest. 361 pounds would take forever to crush in the small, crush diva stainless steel tub. the white trash bags in the grey tub contained bags of ice to keep the berries and juice chilled. after the sort and partial destemming, i jumped into the tub and started the stomp. i stomped and stomped. we realized that all the berries wouldn't be crushed in the large tub—there was too much room for the berries to escape underfoot. ger scooped out juice, berries and pomace, strained out the juice and sent me stomping the remaining pomace/berry mixture. i think we finished the crush about 7pm. by then i was stickier than i had ever been. i had crushed by foot and by hand. at one point, i considered crushing by just rolling in the tub. i was tired. so much for the goddess of stomp! ger and his dad started the pressing after i had crushed enough berries. i got dinner going about 7pm, but they didn't finish until after 8 with the press and processing of the juice.

throughout the day, the largest part of the conversation centered around enthusiasm for the port of leonardtown winery, the need for larger capacity equipment, and the need for a larger labor pool. heh. it loomed large in our minds.

the boys and i do not make up a full time, dedicated worker the likes of gerald, pete, uncle pete or dad byrne. we will also engaged elsewhere for the season, so i would like to extend a personal invitation to all friends of the farm—no matter their age or ability—to help my husband and his family get through this awkward, middle stage of growth. there is plenty of work for all. if you are a local friend of the farm family, its probably best to contact bernard byrne in order to coordinate labor.

posting, such as it has been for this year, will likely become more sporadic, as well, but keep checking in. thanks to all. its been fun.

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