One of the best parts of operating an agriculturally based business is the change of seasons. From March through September, we spend a large amount of time in the vineyard. The season starts with pruning dormant vines in Spring, managing the canopy and the fruit load during Summer, and picking grapes come Fall as we keep a watchful eye on the forecast of frost. This past Saturday, we put a wrap on a bountiful but challenging season, and our attention for the remainder of the year will be in the wine cellar as we go from grapes to the glass. But first, here’s a wrap up of the 2018 season and harvest.
Grapevines in any climate thrive in a long, hot summer with just enough rain but not too much. Here in western Wisconsin, we rarely see this perfect scenario. The last time we had a truly hot and fairly dry summer was 2014. This season, we had a good amount of heat in June, but it was accompanied by a lot of rain. Green growth was explosive, and managing the canopy was a battle we waged most of the summer. And then it got dry…really dry. Too dry for the nearby corn, but not too dry for grapes. We were humming along just fine. And then it rained. And rained. And rained some more. In one ten day stretch we recorded twelve inches of rain. For corn, it was too late. For grapes, it could have been too much. Fortunately, our soil drains well in most areas, and with a strong disease management program, we entered the harvest season in good shape. The grapes looked a bit worse for wear, but the chemistries were great and we were able to pick around the rain and before the frost. I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when the fruit is off the vine and in the cellar. I hang up my farmer hat and put on my winemaker hat. One season ends, another begins.
Being a small producer, all of the grapes at River Bend are picked by hand…actually by a lot of hands. We picked on three separate weekends in September with three groups of fantastic volunteers. The first weekend, they patiently waited out the rain. The second weekend, it was perfect, cool but sunny. The third weekend, it was cloudy, clammy and cold. The thermometer read 32 degrees at 6am…and everyone still showed up to get the job done. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for another successful harvest. The grapes are on their way to becoming the next vintage of River Bend wine, and we can’t wait to share it with all of our supporters and friends.
Until next time...Cheers!