​CT Wineries​ Prep for Harvest

Harvest season is easily the busiest time of year for Connecticut Wineries: the weather is a little cooler, the vineyards are lush and full of ripe grapes, and wineries are bustling with activity. During this time, we reached out to some of the CT Wine Trail wineries to see what their harvest traditions are and when this annual process takes place in the northeast.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards, Goshen

Sunset Meadow Vineyards nets all 32 acres of vineyards to protect against starlings, deer and wildlife in general, according to owner and winemaker George Motel. This time of year, his family will continuously test the grapes for sugar, acid, Ph, and taste.

With all of the rain this summer, the vigor of the vine increased. As a result, a lot more time went into hand pruning the vines as well as mowing and weed control efforts.  Harvest is running about two weeks later this year, and Sunset Meadow will start with St Croix in the next few weeks. Typically Cabernet Franc and Vidal Blanc are their latest ripening varieties.

Harvest is a very demanding time, so they rely on professional compensated help rather than volunteers. Depending on weather conditions and the size of the picking, there are many long days and late nights. Once they start harvesting a varietal, they cannot stop until it is finished, or the results of the harvested product will vary too much. Sunset Meadow takes their grapes to crush almost immediately. When everything is “in the tanks,” they will all relax and celebrate with a glass of wine and some good food.


Hopkins Vineyard, Warren

Hopkins Vineyard in Warren is a family-owned vineyard that utilizes primarily estate grown grapes to produce their award-winning wines.

Due to the wet summer, Hopkins, like many other Connecticut vineyards, is harvesting a little later than usual this year.  Starting October 1, they will harvest their estate-grown Cayuga, Seyval, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Vidal grapes.  The grapes will go to crush as soon as possible.  There are not volunteer options for harvest at Hopkins Vineyard.

Before harvest, they will test the grapes for flavor, sugar, and acid. In preparation, they are checking the press, washing picking boxes, taking juice samples, dropping green fruit, and netting their vines to protect the ripening fruit from wildlife.

Hopkins has an Annual Wine & Cheese Festival, happening on October 14 from 11am-5pm. In their eighth year, the festival will feature local wines, award-winning farmstead and artisan cheeses, and specialty food producers from Connecticut. Guests will have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of chocolates, jams, baked items, salami, olive oils, coffee, kettle corn, Italian ice, honey, dips, and more. Also local craft artisans will feature handmade alpaca products, candles, glassware, jewelry, soaps, carved wood, furniture and terrariums. Tickets are $25.


Priam Vineyards, Colchester

Jim Melillo, partner of Priam Vineyards in Colchester, provided some insight for harvest at the vineyard. Priam completed netting and spraying as grapes are going through veraison (changing color and becoming sweeter), and are just awaiting the correct brix reading. Brix is a way to measure the potential alcohol content of a wine before it’s made by determining the sugar level in grapes.

As staff-members check brix and the Ph of bunches every couple of days, harvesting is right on the horizon. St. Croix will be earlier to harvest, and harvest will continue through mid-October. Priam no longer calls on volunteers to help with harvest due to the long days (6-10 hours depending on the crop).

The wetter summer has benefitted some of the white varietals – they’re finding bigger bunches of the whites with more grapes. The whites go into the crush most immediately, within 3-10 days of harvest.

Priams’ newly expanded tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday during harvest 11am-6pm; make sure to ask for the barrel tasting and sample their red blend from a new Hungarian oak.


Chamard Vineyards, Clinton

“At Chamard, we make wine depending on which grape comes in first.  In the fall, the California grapes ripen first.  For our estate grapes, the Chardonnay usually is the first to ripen, and therefore the first wine made,” said winemaker Kristen Parsons.

“We have gardens here at Chamard Vineyards, so our traditional harvest meal consists of salsa verde made from garden fresh tomatillos and jalapeños. Along with freshly-picked tomatoes for salad, this accompanies grilled steak, sausage and chicken, with corn tortillas.

Everybody enters the betting pool on when and which day our Vineyard Manager, Jim, will cut his finger with the harvest pruning sheers.”


Walker Road Vineyard, Woodbury

Blogger Christina Musto chatted with Jim Frye of Walker Road Vineyards in Woodbury about Harvest and what his pre-harvest traditions are:

How do you get ready for harvest?

We start by harvesting our Marquette grapes​*​.

​*The Marquette grape is the grandson of Frontenac and Pinot Noir. This grape creates a wine that is complex, ruby red in color, and very flavorful. The wine has notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and baking spices. A delicious red wine.

Any other fun harvest traditions? Harvest snack/food of choice?

Our friends and family always come over and help us harvest the grapes. It is a great day to share with everyone! After harvesting during the day, we crush in the evening (​when it’s ​a little cooler) and have either pulled pork sandwiches or chili.


Taylor Brooke Winery, Woodstock

Nikki from Taylor Brooke Winery in Woodstock​ tells us how she gets ready for harvest and which grapes she harvests first.

How do you get ready for harvest?

​This year, we are bringing in our St. Croix from our grower offsite in Brooklyn, CT, first. This will happen Saturday, Sept. 9 because the grapes are already at 16 Brix! Our St. Croix at the vineyard ​is still only at 12.3. First pick from our vineyard is going to be the Cayuga White. They are almost ready to go!!!

Brix is the unit of measurement of the sugar content within fruit, and specifically to winemaking, grapes. One degree Brix is equal to 1 gram of sucrose within 100 grams (100ml) of liquid. The average Brix level for grapes is between 20-30.

Any other fun harvest traditions? Harvest snack/food of choice?

Our harvest food is always pizza because a local spot delivers and makes delicious pies. If fact, I start working out extra the month before because of the amount of pizza in front of my face for the next 6 weeks​!​ Oh, and wine of course.​


Many CT Vineyards and Wineries are hosting special Harvest Festival events. Check out:

Author

Kayla Hedman

A Connecticut-native, Kayla recently moved back to southeastern CT from Burlington, VT. While in VT, she frequented local wineries, where a number of her friends worked as tasting room staff and event coordinators. She hardwired her palette and learned to appreciate wine for the sake of her friends. Unfortunately, after finding out she has an intolerance to gluten, Kayla stepped away from being a part-time representative for a brewery and grew to love wine even more. She works full-time as a brand manager at a marketing agency, and enjoys supporting local small businesses in her spare time.