Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

‘Tis the Season…in September!

Exploring VA Wines

By Doug Fabbioli

‘Tis the Season…in September!

Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year: the grapes are ripening, and the harvest has begun!

Harvest time is more than just picking what you’ve grown. Processing the crop to preserve it is a key part of success for a farmer. Most vegetables will last for a bit of time, some longer than others, but eventually they need to be frozen or canned to be useable later. Some sturdier vegetables like onions or potatoes can be dry packed for storage. The method used all depends on the crop and how hardy it is.

Although grapes are our “bread and butter,” so to speak, at Fabbioli Cellars we have more than just grapes to pick and process. Harvest season for us usually starts with our hops sometime in mid-to-late August. We have been growing hops for eight years now and have gotten the program down to a pretty smooth operation. To preserve them we first have to separate the cones from the leaves and stalks, and then dry and vacuum-pack them. We use the picking and drying equipment at Vanish Brewery to protect the hops until they are used in our Attitude Adjuster cider or in one of our neighbors’ beers.

Grapes are our focus though, and there is not much time to spare once they begin to ripen. Each grape variety from each of the farms that we work is sampled and evaluated so that when we decide to pick it we can make sure we have all the pieces in place to process it. Wine grapes have very little flexibility in time and temperature parameters. Unlike pears, apples, or tomatoes, grapes will not ripen once picked, so we have to make sure they are as perfect as they can be. We often pick our fruit in the cool of the morning and process it as soon as it arrives at the winery. If it is coming in from a ways away, we may store it in our cooler overnight and process it in the morning.

Every crop has its own program and plan. I have learned a lot over the years from the garlic, asparagus, pears, raspberries, and grapes that I have grown. As I talk with other farmers, I learn even more about growing, processing, and selling produce, in whatever form it might be. There is a culture that exists among the agriculture community: we all know about working until the job is done, often for weeks or months at a time. And there is a joy among the winemaking folks that the harvest and fermentation process pretty much happens only in September and October, filling the air with the unique aromas and sounds of the season. There is also joy in anticipating the wines that eventually will come from the effort we put in now.

Be sure to stop into a winery or three this harvest season. There is a good chance you may see or smell some of what makes this season so special for us, and a definite chance you can enjoy the labors of past years! Cheers…

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