We had an interesting diversion last weekend. Some local friends of ours who’ve been making their own wine for decades invited to join them for their annual fall trip to pick grapes. We waffled on going; we’re buried with the Dreaded House Remodel, and it would kill an entire day. But in the end, we figured that it would be a GOOD thing to take a little time to do something new, interesting, and couple-oriented.
Boy, did we guess right. It was fantastic! We joined Burt and Patty, our octogenarian winemaker friends, at the Courting Hill Vineyard about 90 minutes east of our house. I bet you didn’t know that Oregon has a respected wine region with prefect climate for certain kinds of wine grapes, including Pinot and Chardonnay. Courting Hill is a small 80-acre specialty vineyard, that’s been run by a pleasant old fellow named Jimmy for over 30 years.
Here’s Emily picking the grapes. Apparently, there is a pretty narrow window for this, when the grapes are at maximum sugar but not yet getting moldy. Burt gave us the quick lesson on how to do it, and we got to work. It only took half an hour or so to pick the 200 pounds of grapes we needed for the wine.
Then, we made our way back up to the house to de-stem the grapes with a motorized machine. Jimmy’s grandson Adam ran that process, with us passing buckets and so forth, and Adam’s wife Jenna moving equipment, spraying things down, and the all-important Setting Out of Snacks.
Once the grapes were de-stemmed, they went into the antique wine press. This thing was awesome… cast iron base, giant screw, big ratchety arm. Adam and I ended up doing most of the pressing, because I was 40 years younger than most of the folks there except Emily and Jenna, who were spending a lot of time talking about farm stuff. We’ve had this great fortune to meet many couples our age who are getting into farming, and we took an immediate liking Adam and Jenna- I feel we have a lot in common. Enthusiastic, part-time farmers with an appreciation of rural living, they moved out here a few years ago from the east coast to look after Jimmy (who is now 91) and help out with the vineyard. They soon figured out that Courting Hill wasn’t big enough to support them all, so they also have jobs in graphic design and photography. Interesting people.
At one point during the pressing, Jenna mentioned that Jimmy used to fly airplanes for the military. I’m all about airplanes, so I asked him which kind. He flew this one… one of the most powerful, awe-inspiring fighters in the closing days of the propeller age. I said as much, and he shrugged his hunched shoulders a little and replied, “it was a fierce airplane.” There aren’t a lot of WW2 vets left any more, so I’m glad I got a chance to meet this guy. That, and he was funny, pleasant, and knowledgeable.
Once the grapes were fully squashed, we transferred the juice to carboys in Burt’s truck for transport back to the Coast where he’ll be adding yeast, fermenting, and siphoning. Emily and I spent some extra time with Jenna, who showed us a lot of other behind-the-scenes things they have going on at their farm- and she offered to give us a bunch of grape cuttings in the spring to plant on our farm! Apparently, there are a few varities that would probably do OK on the coast, including Glenora, Venus, and Himrod. Table grapes all, but super yummy nonetheless. We gave Jenna and Adam some honey, and hope they will stop by our farm next time they are out at the coast. Farm exchange!
In all, a perfectly splendid outing. We met some really nice people, saw pretty countryside, and even came back with six bottles of wine to help us through the coming wintery months.