Grape Harvesting

Post Harvest Update

So often people ask us, “So, what do you do now that the grapes are all picked?”     Our answer comes with wide eyes and a long list of things going on.   So, let’s get into it. 

Harvest is behind us and after a record crop this year (67 tons of our own grapes—a phenomenal yield after a perfect summer) what we do now is as important as the meticulous way we managed the vineyard throughout the growing season to ensure another year of award-winning wines.  

So far we’ve processed the grapes, constantly cleaning to keep the winery immaculate, ensuring no errant yeasts or bacteria spoil the vintage. Fermentation (the changing of the grape sugar into alcohol) is nearly complete.  We’ve also been checking the reds to see if they’ve completed malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation that helps soften the acidity and increases their complexity on the palate.   This week we pressed the red grapes that have been fermenting, separating the wine from the skins and transferring most of it to oak barrels. 

 As the wines develop, and even as we began the pressing, we had to decide how to create the final products.   This year we’ve gone wild--wild yeasts that is.  In addition to our favorite traditional varietals and blends, Ethan and the vineyard staff have created a couple of new ones by allowing the wild yeasts that thrive in our vineyard to do the work of fermentation rather than applying the more typical naturally grown laboratory yeasts.  The results will bring two new and slightly different wines to our shelves in the coming months:  Wild Louise and Marquette Untamed. 

We’re also adding another new red to the vineyard family—Crimson Sails—a Marquette that’s unoaked, fruitier and an easy sipper that will sit nicely next to our popular white wine, Lakeview White. 

Ethan’s creativity doesn’t end there.   Thanks to the success of our relatively new bubbly Celestial Louise, we’re going natural, pét nat, as they say in the industry, with two new celebratory bubblies created using the champagne like process péttilant naturel.  Here we’ll bottle and cap the wine while it is still fermenting, letting the fermentation complete in the bottle to produce soft natural bubbles that will suit a romantic meal at home or a special festivity.

Finally, we’ll be producing a new wine from our lovely, aromatic LaCrescent grapes—this one made in the style known as “orange wine.”  Typically white wines are fermented off the skins, but an orange wine ferments the grape while the skins remain.  We’re also allowing the wine to go through malolactic fermentation resulting in a finished wine with no residual sugar giving us a dry white wine with a bigger mouth feel and one that pairs with a very wide variety of foods.

Keep your eyes on our website and newsletter for the release of each of these widely different variations on our Shelburne Vineyard favorites.   Some of them will be very limited releases, so one way to be sure you’ll get to try them is to join our wine club;  others will be in good supply, but stop by often to be sure you get a chance to try them all.   We can’t wait for your feedback.

Humans of the Vine: Harvesting

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"There's a saying, 'It takes a lot of beer to make wine'" ~Head Winemaker Ethan Joseph

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Vineyard staff and others battled the heat this weekend for the first round of grape harvesting! All weekend, vineyard staff tirelessly worked alongside community members and refugees, hand picking and processing our Louise Swenson, a small amount of Marquette for rosé and St. Croix grapes for our oh-so-fittingly-titled "Harvest Widows Revenge".  Harvesting is one of the most crucial times of the year and will determine how much wine we will be able to produce for a certain variety.

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As mentioned, harvesting is no small job and requires the work of many hands.  Shelburne Vineyard has done some incredible work with the Refugee Resettlement Organization, hiring refugees from places like Nepal and Butan to help with the harvest.  And you heard me right before, hand-picking, meaning each and every little bunch of grapes is cut off the vine with a small tool and then placed into buckets which are then collected and added to a larger bin carried by way of tractor. From early morning to late afternoon, grapes are picked and collected row by row.

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Once the larger bins are full they are brought behind the winery site where they are weighed and then put through the delicately named "CRUSHER", which essentialy gives the grapes a little squeeze and removes the stems.  All of the grapes collected this weekend from both our winery site and the Charlotte site weighed a whopping 11 tons!  Just to give you an idea, that's enough to produce almost 8,000 bottles of wine!

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Ethan has a point, after tending to 11 tons of grapes, I too, would require a couple cold ones.

Authored By: Beth Abbott