Harvesting Community Grape-ness
It's been said: “Nothing is better for the soil than the farmer’s footprints.”
At Wessex Hundred, we certainly believe that to be true.
This month, we were reminded just how powerful the presence of YOUR footprints can be in the vineyards, too.
Just as hurricane Dorian was threatening to move in on the farm and potentially bring inches of rain and tropical storm winds, our crew, with the help of many volunteers, harvested over 10 tons of Chardonnay, roughly 6.5 tons of Albariño and 12 tons of Traminette from our Wessex Hundred Estate Vineyard.
Fortunately, the storm veered farther east and did not bring the winds and rains it could have.
“Not knowing what could happen, we were trying to get in as much fruit as we could before the storm,” said Winemaker Matthew Meyer.
You can’t be too careful, he said, because the grapes were ripe and ready to pick.
“If they get too much water, it could dilute the sugars, dilute the flavors,” Meyer said. “With too much rain, there is the potential for rot and for the berries to soak up too much water and split.”
So on Sept. 3, with the grapes in perfect picking condition “we put out an all-points bulletin to get some help,” Meyer said.
The call for help went out on Facebook and Instagram with the simple message of “anyone want to help us with harvest tomorrow?! We will be picking our Chardonnay and Traminette blocks before the storms roll in.”
Within hours so many people had responded that Meyer was “truly overwhelmed and humbled. We have a pretty tight vineyard crew – they are the champions of champions in what they do – but they needed help. We literally couldn’t have gotten it done without the people who saw our request and came out to help.”
Here’s an introduction to a few of those volunteers.
For Steve McVey of New Kent, it was his first time picking, but far from his first time at Wessex Hundred.
His family helped build the pavilion that opened earlier this year and his wife, he said laughing, “well…let’s just say she’s a regular out here.”
His wife would have loved to have joined him in the harvest, but was out of town.
“I was either going to go to the gym this morning or do this,” McVey said. “I’m glad I did this.”
Beth Lovejoy of Williamsburg had been out to the Williamsburg Winery twice before the
September 2019 harvest. At the tour she took this past summer, the guide told her she could come back and help with picking.
When she saw the call for volunteers on Facebook, she was glad to pitch in.
“My daughter is getting married here in July 2020 and I couldn’t help but think that maybe some of the grapes I helped pick would end up bottled and served as wine at her wedding,” Lovejoy said.
Her daughter, Ainsley, currently lives in New York, but with parents living in Williamsburg wanted to have her wedding close to “home.”
The Williamsburg Winery was on the top of her choice list for a venue, not only because of its proximity to her family, but also because of the gorgeous landscape and her love of wine.
“Ainsley is a wine buff,” Lovejoy said. “She took a winery class in college thinking it would be fun, but realized it was all chemistry and found a greater appreciation for it all.”
NIVEA BEALE & KEISHA BARTON
It wasn’t just the community that came out to help. The call for pickers was also answered by The Williamsburg Winery’s own team members.
Take Nivea Beale, for example.
Most days, you can find Beale working in the tasting room.
“Now, she said, “when people come in for tastings, I can honestly tell them I’ve helped in picking, too.”
Beale also brought along her friend, Keisha Barton of Newport News. Barton showed up to pick AFTER a long night of work where she drives a forklift.
“I’m used to working hard and working with my hands,” Barton said. “I was happy to get involved. It was great to come out and help.”
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