May 3, 2013

The grapes are in!

Pinot Noir ready to be picked
We’re coming to the end of a crazy busy time at Chez DeLeo — the closing days of the grape harvest. For the past fifteen years my DH, the winemaker, has brought in the grapes and cast his magic to turn them into wine. 

It’s a tough time. Long, stressful hours trying to coordinate the picking, the delivery, the pressing and fermentation of the grapes. It can be a big problem if there’s too much rain, or not enough, and there’s the annual challenge of pulling together a team of vintage workers from all corners of the globe.

Sauvignon blanc vines
DH's first job is to go around each block of grapes, taste a sample and decide when it should be picked. It's a different decision for each type of grape, each wine style he wants to produce, and each valley in the region. With two thousand acres of grapes in our region alone, that's a lot of snacking...

Our valley full of vines
Ours is a wine community with nearly everyone  involved in some way or other. The good thing about that is that we’re all in the same boat. No one holds parties during harvest, there are no school concerts scheduled and shops open at unusual times to cater for shift workers who are busy round the clock.

Some final product
It’s a beautiful, mad, creative, and in the end, hugely satisfying accomplishment; a little like writing a book I guess. I know the DH has a sense of pride in producing something that takes a lot of time, consideration and craft just as I do with my books.

Think of me at the end of harvest party tomorrow when we all get together to celebrate the end of another "vintage" and a job well done. It won't be a big night for me though - I have a book to finish. Maybe I'll have my own "book vintage" party then!

Have you visited a winery to see how it’s made or to taste the product? Or a chocolate factory perhaps?


  1. Oh, Barb, what an experience! I am deeply envious. I would love to set a story in a vineyard...have been toying with the thought of asking a winery or two in the Hunter Valley if I could come hang out with them for a day or two. :-)

    Enjoy both your end of harvest and book vintage parties!

  2. Hi Barbara, the harvest party sounds fantastic. Isn't it great to celebrate success (and survival) after long, hard work?

    I've visited several vineyards and think I like best the older ones where not everything is stainless steel. As a student I used to pick grapes for the harvest and get paid by the bucket load - and very big buckets they were too! Definitely hard work so by the end of a long day you felt like you'd earned a good night's sleep. Hope your husband enjoys some rest after all that effort.

  3. Oh, Michelle, come stay with me! The dh has been consultant on a number of "romance in the vines" stories so I'm sure he'd love to help out, and you and I can do some research sampling the product {:o)

  4. How cool that you've been a grape harvester, Annie! Yes, the older style wineries are beautiful. Dh has made wine in Italy, Hungary, Australia and South Africa so he's seen everything from the traditional to the brand new. It's a fascinating industry and lovely to be involved with something that has such a history.

  5. Oh, Barb, now that is indeed a very attractive invitation! I also believe that sampling the product is essential. ;-) Ooh, my mind is boggling with the thought of all that fun.

  6. Barb
    I'm envious. I live in Missouri, USA. At one time, before prohibition, it was known for it's wine production. It's slowly getting back there.

    Haven't visited one lately, but several years back I drove my parents to my dad's ship reunion every year. We ended up with a theme every year, even without conscious thought, as our trips to the reunion were usually 1800-2000 miles one way. Museums, parks, zoos, forts and one year we called it the "booze" trip. We started with a winery, brewery, distillery, and then another winery. It was great fun and we returned home with some lovely samples.

  7. I've been on many a winery trawl with my parents. So, it's been a while now. I was too young to do the tasting, my Father had to drive, but my Mother had a GREAT time!!

  8. Mmmm, grape juice...mmmmm....
    Sorry, what was the question again? :-)
    Weren't we talking about a writing retreat at some stage amongst the vines, Barb??

  9. Hi Rita!

    Tee hee on calling the reunion trips booze trips! Must say I do love getting the samples at the end of a tour. We have a great distillery here too that makes the most beautiful butterscotch schnapps. Hmmm, might have to go there for a visit this weekend.

  10. Hi Mary, that's funny about your mother. I remember the fist time dh took my parents around the winery. He was getting them to taste wine direct from tanks and barrels and of course he was doing the special swirl and spit as he always does so as not to imbibe too much.My mum thought it sacrilegious to spit out all that lovely wine so by the end of the tour she was very happy indeed!

  11. You know, Amy, you're absolutely right. It's high time we got together for a winery retreat. Organisational hats need to go on!

  12. Barbara, what fab photos! Good luck with that harvest - it sounds like an exciting, worrying, wonderful time! I love the way the whole community revolves around the "harvest clock" to leave all the grape growers free to concentrate on their crops.

    We live right next door to a winery and used to help out at harvest and bottling etc. Heaps of fun. The winery has been handed down to the next generation now and they don't tend to include the community. Which is a little sad for us.

    Mmmm, a retreat in your winery! A delicious idea!

  13. What a great achievement, getting the harvest in. Sounds very romantic but must be lots and lots and lots of hard work. Enjoy that harvest party, Barb!

  14. As a matter of fact, I HAVE had a tour of a winery - it was with your gorgeous DH. :) As you know, I'm not a big wine drinker, but my DH hunts down bottles from that your DH made and I'll always have a glass of those!

  15. What a shame that your neighbours aren't involving the community any more, Sharon. That's the sort of thing you'd expect with the big national wine companies but not a family run one.

    Yes, looks like I'm on "Lovecats visit a winery" duty!

  16. Thanks, Jen! The harvest party always has a theme and this year it's kiwiana - as in all things New Zealand. We have overseas vintage workers so it'll be interesting to see how they dress up!

  17. What a wonderful DH you have, Rachel! I always like to encourage people to buy my DH's wine — anything to help my shoe fund.