Vacations end, school starts, there’s a nip in the air. Fall enters with a renewed energy and fast-forward motion that leaves summer breathless in its wake. Nowhere is this energy more vibrant than in the vineyard and winery. This is harvest time. Plan a trip to a winery this fall and you’ll get an eyewitness education on how wine is made.
“Visitors will see picking bins in the field, along with the people who pick our grapes,” says Seth Meranda, co-owner of Meranda-Nixon winery in Ripley. “We pick by hand.”
Up north in Geneva, Nick Ferrante, winemaker at Ferrante Winery, says grapes there are harvested both by hand and machine. “We harvest Pinot Gris by machine, Pinot Noir by hand,” he says. Ferrante determines when to harvest. “The decision is based on the Brix level (a scale denoting a grape’s sugar), the flavor of the grape, and other factors.”
Meranda’s decision is based solely on experience, he says. “I watch for translucent skins and soft berries.” If he bites into a grape and it explodes on his palate, he knows the time is right for harvesting – first whites, then reds. “The longer the reds can stay on the vine, the deeper the flavor.”
At Meranda-Nixon, white grapes are pressed upon arrival, red grapes will be left to macerate for a couple of weeks. At Ferrante, some whites will be allowed contact with their skin for four or five hours. Others are crushed without skin contact. Reds are crushed, then moved to fermentation tanks. After that, Ferrante will taste each tank daily to monitor the fermentation process.
Autumn may be a busy time to visit the winery — but it’s also the best time to fully appreciate the contents of that wineglass in front of you.
– Karen Edwards