wine

May Winds A'Howlin'

It was the evening of Friday, May 4th. We were hosting one of the University of Vermont's public philosophy forums discussion. The topic for the evening was a fitting one: Plato's Symposium, a discourse on objective value and what makes something like wine good. 

Lead by Michael Ashooh, the discussion was picking up. Folks were weighing in about whether knowledge enhances one's ability to determine value. As the conversation really started to roll, so did the weather. Creeping in from the West was a looming wall of clouds making its way across Lake Champlain.

A tree lies across the fence that surrounds Shelburne Museum; a willow has some shattered limbs

A tree lies across the fence that surrounds Shelburne Museum; a willow has some shattered limbs

The rain came down hard and suddenly. In great waves the wind brought heavy rain and quarter inch hail sideways against the glass doors that flank the tasting room. It went from feeling like we were in a lecture hall to being in a ship tossed on a sea during a storm. Rain began to shoot in through the seams of the doors. The power flickered and then went out. 

Warmer weather comes with a classic New England phenomenon: Thunderstorms that come from nowhere. We anticipate at least a few a year that turn the sky green and bring on that feeling of a drop in pressure, the smell of imminent rain. 

This one was a doozy, though. And had it come a couple of weeks later than it did, we could have experienced some severe damage in the buds on the vines. When those tender shoots first start to emerge they are temporarily prone to the likes of hail and 50 mph wind gusts. 

 

A fallen tree in a neighbor's yard

A fallen tree in a neighbor's yard

Many folks in town experienced some serious damage from the winds. The soft, damp earth couldn't hold up some of the larger trees around town. The Shelburne Museum experienced some serious property damage. We feel very lucky that we came off with barely a scratch. 

Vineyard dog Wrigley inspects the damage

Vineyard dog Wrigley inspects the damage

We're looking forward to coming weeks of good weather and a strong start to the growing season! We'll be back soon with updates as the vines begin to grow their shoots!

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

Humans of the Vine: Bottling

"This machine will produce about 1000 bottles an hour"

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With the crew operating the last bottling until next season, the pressure is on to make sure that this selection of Marquette perfectly finds its home in each bottle.  While bottling doesn't happen quite often, it does involve many patient hands in the process (And not just robotic hands either). Some of these patient hands include the Vineyard Manager and Head Winemaker Ethan Joseph, tasting room manager and Gallery Coordinator Rhiannon Johnson, as well as our Vineyard Assistants Josh Stecker and CJ Buzzy.

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The bottling process simply begins as plain, empty bottles are lined up and sent down a conveyer belt into our handy and efficient "bottling machine".  This machine is where a majority of our bottling is actually conducted.

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When entering the machine, the bottles are circled around on a carousel and pumped full of that good red stuff. Once they are precisely full enough the machine then corks the bottles and they move on down the line.

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We all know that little plastic wrapping we have to tear through in order to uncork and pour ourselves a glass; well that's the next step! PVC covers shoot down and are shrunk with heat to each bottle neck. Directly following, labels are spun around and stuck to each bottle.

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Once the completed bottles exit the machine, we need someone to catch them on the other side!  Strong arms needed for this job as the winery assistants lift and pack the full bottles into boxes and then stack those boxes onto pallets where they can be plastic wrapped and stored. Not only are they there to catch the bottles, but this is also a necessary step for quality control.

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Bottling wine requires a great deal of diligence and patience, something that our workers here are very experienced with.  Now you can see how our beloved wine is transformed into the bottle you have on your wine rack at home.  Come on over and experience a tasting, there's plenty of Marquette to go around!

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Authored By: Beth Abbott