Monday, August 27, 2012

Grape Harvest Hurry

The Gush Etzion Winery makes delicious and well-respected wine. Its grapes are extra-special because of the altitude and climate of its vineyards in Gush Etzion.The vineyards that descend down the slope from Efrat, at 900 meters, produce the magnificent grapes that produce Cabernet Franc wines.

On a recent Friday, the Cabernet Franc grapes had reached their peak and had to be picked immediately. While grapes are usually picked a little later in the season, the hot weather caused them to be ready earlier than expected.
Because the field was so large, and Fridays (Erev Shabbat) are so short, the Winery needed extra help picking as many perfectly-timed grapes as possible.
I posted a call on our local email list for volunteers to join in this unique experience of participating in a grape harvest.

Not Like "I Love Lucy"

Everyone asked the same thing. Will it be like "I Love Lucy"?
[In one of the most famous episodes of "I Love Lucy", Lucy stumbles into a vat of grapes, and after pressing them with her feet in a kind of Mexican Hat Dance, she gets into an unforgettable wrestling match with a "donna".]
"No," I responded, "We won't stomp the grapes. We'll just pick them."
Hhhh was usually the response. I didn't know if that was good or bad.

Whether they were hoping to stomp grapes or not, several families joined together in the vineyard - pails ready - to pick the little purple clusters. 
Grape Harvesting
Grape harvesting is very surprising. There are those grapes that you see dangling right from the bottom of the vine, and then there are clusters all the way in the back, and those hiding under the giant grape leaves.
First I clipped off the easy-to-find grape clusters. Then I went after the more hidden ones. And lastly, I did a once over for anything I missed before. When our pails were full, we poured our grapes into larger wagons. When they were filled, the wagons were hooked up together and pulled to the near-by winery by a tractor.
Families with kids of all ages worked together. The children were horrified to know that the grapes are not rinsed to take off the white powdering coating. That coating is a kind of natural yeast that is important in making the wine. They were just getting used to the thought of the white powder when I told them that grapes are not pitted before the wine process. Too many revelations in one day.
Plain Picking
Still, it was a great feeling knowing that the grapes we were picking would one day be wine.
I'd like to say that we sang grape picking songs, which resounded through the valley. But the truth is that we just picked and plucked. We called out to one another from one line of vines to the next. We compared notes on how many grapes we had picked, and how fast our pails were filling. And we talked through the leaves about the Olympics in London, sight-seeing in Paris and excursions to Italy.
There we were back to "Lucy" again, and her Italian experience stomping grapes.
Well, we didn't stomp, but we did have fun. And the kids will never forget the morning they "helped save the grape harvest." Okay, we didn't exactly save the grape harvest, but that's the way the kids will remember it, so...why not.

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