Handpicking Local

Having Some Harmless Fun

After a long, soggy, insufferably steamy summer, Wine Country is now beginning to dry out as the harvest season approaches.  Heading into the latter half of August, the days are still summery, but the nights have the cooler touch of fall–perfect weather for ripening wine grapes.  In our vineyards, the early-season varieties (especially Seyval and Vignoles) have turned from green to gold.  Harvest is just around the corner (stay tuned to our Facebook page for dates and times).  You can’t help but get excited.

Vignoles grapes ripening at Blumenhof Winery

Vignoles grapes ripening in Dutzow.

2015 will be our 30th vintage here at Blumenhof.  Every vintage has been different for us, but the feeling we have going in has always been the same.  After battling the elements through winter, spring, and summer, we feel relieved/grateful/elated/lucky/inspired as we get ready to harvest the fruit of our labor.

When we started the winery back in 1986, we picked all of our grapes by hand–in fact, it took a small army of hands.  Nowadays, with field labor being hard to come by, most of the grapes are picked by a machine that straddles the rows and vibrates the berries off the vines.  However, for various reasons the machine can’t safely pick about 3 acres of vines, so we pull on our boots and do it the old fashioned way.  Happily.

Experimental Grapes ripening in Treloar, Missouri

An experimental red variety picked at our Treloar vineyard a few years ago.

It’s not a complicated job.  You just reach into a sea of leaves, locate a grape cluster, find the stem (a.k.a. “peduncle”), cut the stem with a hook-shaped knife, and then put the grapes in a plastic box, or “lug.”  Repeat . . . and then repeat again thousands of times (depending on the grape variety, you can have more than 50,000 clusters per acre of grapes) until all the grapes are picked.  At the end of the day, you’re tired from the exertion but also satisfied with the completion of a job well done.  For a winemaker, getting out of the cellar and picking grapes is like the “harmless fun” Mark Twain wrote about:  “it tones a body up and keeps him human and prevents him from souring.”  Needless to say, a sour winemaker is no fun at all.

Handpicking grapes isn’t for everyone but, in a very real sense, everyone does it when they handpick a bottle of wine.  For example, when you purchase a bottle of French wine, you’re really picking the French grapes that made the wine.  That’s good for France.  We think the same reasoning applies to Missouri wine.  That is, handpicking a bottle of Missouri wine is good for Missouri (not to mention also harmless fun for you).  But there is this IMPORTANT CAVEAT:  you have to make sure the bottle contains wine from grapes that were grown and picked in Missouri.  You can only be certain of this if the word “Missouri” (or some other, more specific, place of origin in Missouri) appears on the front label.

You don’t have to inspect labels here at Blumenhof, but you are more than welcome to do so if you like.  That’s because every bottle we sell proudly proclaims “MISSOURI” on the label.  Missouri-grown wine is all we make.  Missouri-grown wine is all we have ever made for 29 vintages and counting.  And obviously, we are able to do this ONLY because you have handpicked our wines.

So please, keep up the good work–and have some fun.