Harvest the grape

Me in the vineyard

Yesterday, my friend Annie from Montreal and I spent the most amazing day picking grapes as part of a community harvest at Scheuermann Vineyard in Westport.

The owners Allison and Francois couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. As the first rays of the sun crested the hills over the rows of their picturesque vineyard, carload after carload arrived to help with the harvest.

Overlooking the vineyard

We first rolled up black netting that had been protecting the vines from birds, clipping it to the metal wires so snow wouldn’t build up in the months ahead. Then it was time to start the harvest.

The French have a word for harvesting grapes: la vendage. It has such a wonderful sound to it, and rolls off the tongue as sweetly as the delicious juice of the grapes we snipped from vines.

Dog in vineyard

 

We picked Vidal, a beautiful, light green grape. When picking grapes, you work in pairs facing each other through the vines. The buddy system ensures that no grapes are missed and left on the vine. The term picking grapes isn’t quite accurate either. You snip the stems from the vines.

Harvesting grapes can be back breaking work so each person sits on a stool. You “pick” with your partner, placing the large bunches of grapes in bins, working down the rows from post to post.

Woman with stool
The owners Mom, Francine won the prize for most innovative stool–tied to her bum!

The fruit was magnificent, large green bunches hanging off the vines—Francois later told us it was one of their best years yet.

bin of grapes

The day was spectacular. We took a short break to drink coffee from mason jars and have some homemade cookies, then it was back to the vines. By early afternoon, as our mouths were starting to get parched, they delivered cold beer and homemade pizza to us in the fields.

Pickers leaving the field
Francois’ son photo bombed this picture of us leaving the fields at end of the day

We worked hard, but it was so worth it. By 4:15 all the Vidal had been picked. It was time to celebrate.

We ran into our friends Tim and Susie and had a great day and dinner with them

Our gracious hosts uncorked Vidal and Cabernet Franc, which we sipped in big Adirondack chairs overlooking Wolfe Lake. Then dinner was served, a delicious harvest meal of garlic potatoes, cauliflower, roasted carrots and beef, topped off with the piece de resistance, homemade apple pie and pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce that bubbled on the pot in front of the open fire.

Destemming machine
Scraping all the stems away from the destemming machine

We dined al fresco as Francois and his hard working crew poured container after container of grapes into the destemmer (which removes the stems), then into the press to extract the juice.

Bins of grapes being emptied into pressers
Emptying the grapes into the presser

We picked 10 tons of grapes, about enough to make 10,000 bottles of wine. I was in heaven.

Bottle of wine

This week’s #HappyAct is to join a community harvest. Vive la vendage. And special thanks to my camera shy amie Annie for making the trip and being my picking partner for the day. Same time next year–a la prochaine!

Enjoy the finer things in life

bottle of wine and wilton cheeseI’ve come to terms with certain truths in my life. I know I will never be rich. I’ll never own a Coach purse, have a designer kitchen, or set foot in a Ferrari or Porsche, let alone own one.

But when it comes to certain necessities, I am unwavering in my devotion to the finer things of life. Good bread, wine and cheese are three staples I won’t skimp on.

Here is a list of my favourite finer things:

  • Best bread: Pan Chancho bakery in Kingston. I had two colleagues from TD Bank in Toronto who insisted on coming to Kingston every year for meetings just so they could stock up on loaves of bread to take home on the train. Their olive bread is addictive.
  • Best ice cream: Kawartha Dairy wins by two scoops every time. I discovered Kawartha Dairy thirty years ago on weekend trips to Minden, the Kawarthas and Bancroft to friends’ cottages. Luckily you can get their rich and creamy ice cream everywhere now, even Costco.
  • Best cheese: Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Wilton Cheese Factory in Wilton is the best little cheese factory in eastern Ontario. Sure, there may be good fancy artisanal cheese places out there, but you won’t find better cheese at a reasonable price. People drive for miles for their cheese curds.
  • Best honey: This one has to bee my bestie Elaine Peterson’s Bee Happy Honey. You can buy Elaine’s honey at the Memorial Centre Farmer’s Market in Kingston on Sundays and other local markets
  • Best butter tarts: Mrs. Garrett’s of Garrett’s Meat Shop in Inverary—gooey, rich, huge and delicious! Don’t forget to pick up a pumpkin pie for a second dessert while you’re there.
  • Best coffee: Cooke’s Find Foods coffee. Get it in Kingston and Picton–guaranteed to perk you up.
  • Best wine: So many wines, so little time. Since I’m no connoisseur, and still have to buy wine on a budget, I won’t even attempt to try to list my favourites, but the amazing array of Ontario wines from the County and Niagara will keep us all happy for a very long time. I will give a shout out to my newest local winery, Scheuermann Winery in Westport. Leslie and I visited it last fall and enjoyed a bottle of their Romatique. Worth the drive to Westport.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the finer things in life. What’s one of your favourite finer things? Leave a comment.