Harvest 2015 ~ Parley Lake Winery

A grand culmination in one sense, only a beginning in another.

During harvest season one of my favorite ways to start the day is by looking through the #harvest2015 posts on my instagram feed. Southern Ontario, the Rioja in Spain, Texas, Virginia, the Finger Lakes, Thessaly-Greece, the Piedmont in Italy, British Columbia, Willamette Valley, Napa, Sonoma, the Loire. Like a geography lesson on steroids, I never know what part of the world is going to pop up next.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, where harvest typically runs from August to October, vineyard photos are now accompanied by hashtags like #lastofthegrapes, and pictures of the crush and newly pressed juice are taking over. The work of the growing season is almost done, but the labor of winemaking has only begun.

A good friend, whom I’ll call The Energizer because she motivates and organizes the rest of us (we all need one!), stumbled upon a call for volunteers to help pick grapes at Parley Lake Winery in Waconia, Minnesota, a mere half-hour drive from home. Our take home pay would be a bottle of wine. Having watched the harvest everywhere around the world this growing season, I gladly signed up for duty.

Sunrise made the early morning drive out to the winery more than worth it. After a short briefing from the vineyard manager and the distribution of razor-fork picking sheers, we were set loose on rows of ripe Frontenac grapes. Engineered by the University of Minnesota to withstand extremely cold climates, Frontenac is a cross between the French Landot grape and a Minnesota native variety. The University advises as long a hangtime as possible for the grape, to help moderate it’s naturally high acidity. I have to admit I haven’t sampled much Frontenac in the glass (yet), but I can definitely say that right off the vine the grapes are quite tasty.

Parley Lake Winery began in the fall of 2009, a partnership between Deb and Steve Zeller and Bonnie and Lin Deardorff. The Deardorff’s had been growing apples for years and with the addition of grapes, the winery was born. Fellow Minnesotan and wine blogger Jeff Burrows of FoodWineClick wrote a feature on them last fall that is well worth visiting for tasting notes on their varietals and a lovely dose of the Deardorff farm ambiance in his photographs. Better yet, if you’re in the Twin Cities, stop out and visit the winery itself. Based on the long line of folks waiting for the tasting room to open as we were finishing our grape picking, it is a much beloved destination.

Wages for the morning's work.

Wages for the morning’s work.

With #harvest2015 now put to bed, I can hardly wait ’til the Southern Hemisphere gets #harvest2016 underway around February of next year. Meanwhile, there’s lots of good sipping to be had while we wait.

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. — William Blake

So this week, in the spirit of celebrating the culmination of one season and the beginning of another, we toast to harvest, to those who labored long to make it happen, and, as William Blake said, to a winter of enjoyment. Cheers!

Categories: Wine Tasting

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