Time for harvest. and football.
Well it’s that time of year again. The CNE has closed up its doors, Staples employees rejoice, the barbecue finds a quiet home in the corner of the garage, and 9:00am rings silent. Welcome back autumn.
Today for the first time in my life, I purchased a couch — and for no reason more improbable than the hopes of NFL, Cheetos and James Bond marathons.
I’ve organized my fall attire, gathered goods and provisions and mentally begun my preparation for hibernation.
Better worded … preparation for the day the grapes settle into their new existence. The day the crush pad empties, the winemakers reacquaint their husbands and wives and the first snow falls. Why that, that is when the Patriots and I will meet again.
Well you guessed it; harvest is right around the corner and in true fair weather farmer fashion, I am about to bid King & Bathurst adieu while our playoffs commence. 2013 vintage is days away and our spring and summerless year has shifted into another pseudo-season.
There is something pretty magical, and even adrenaline spiking, about seeing equipment appear on crush pads, watching the tractors roll out of barns, picking baskets stacked high, and winemakers preparing their riders.
It’s been a wild year and with no rhyme or reason and a growing season fundamentally different than years past — veraison (the onset of ripening) has managed to come at the same time. With more humidity, more rain and an enormous range in the diurnal temperature over August, we’re gearing up for both an early and (knock on wood) pretty good lookin’ harvest.
By mid to end of September we will have harvested the better part of the aromatic varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot noir; while the Bordeaux varietals will come down the line later into October and in some cases November.
In the case of most small wineries, night and day will be spent crouched amid the vines and hand harvesting and sorting the fruit. Some of the sorting will happen right in the vineyard, while the rest will come to the sorting table where people stand buzzed on caffeine, eyeballing every cluster that rolls down the line and removing all those berries that are less than perfect.
From there it’s the winemaker’s time to shine as they tirelessly run press cycles and work themselves onto a liquid (coffee & beer) diet as they move through twenty hour shifts. From mornings in the vineyard to tireless 3am must samplings, press cleans and punch downs — everyone from best friends, parents and cellar rats will chip in and get dirty.
It’s fascinating and also a friendly reminder that making wine in Ontario is a job for the zany.You see, this is the craziest thing about Niagara. You have to be zany to make wine here. Our biggest terroir factor is the climate itself and both the inconsistencies and intricacies it lends our wines from vintage to vintage. This is not California and we cannot set expectations or assumptions based on what we’ve learned in years past. You always need to be prepared to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and start from scratch. But with all of that being said, that is also what makes this area so unique. It’s the unpredictability of it that becomes invigorating and exhilarating. It’s both living on the edge and straddling the line of sanity.
And with all that said; here’s to good weather, good beer and rest when it comes.
– Sheila Flaherty