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Fruit of the vine

A cool fall breeze wafted across the hilltop vineyard at Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington as volunteers harvested Cabernet Franc grapes Wednesday morning.

Vineyard manager Christian Moore expects the 30 volunteers on hand Wednesday to finish by early afternoon and for the 2 and a half acres to yield from seven to nine tons of the Cabernet Franc grapes. Moore suspects the harvest will yield on the higher side of that number, based on what he saw coming out of the collection bins.

"This year was a rainy one, a tough year for grapes," said Moore. "But, we're not crying over what we got."

The volunteers get trained by Moore on how to cut the bunches of grapes, and inspect them for quality. In return they get lunch, and some wine to take home.

As the volunteers pick, a crew from the winery makes their way through the vineyard on a tractor collecting the harvested grapes and transferring them to a bin that will carry the grapes to the crusher.

Wednesday was the first of the eight harvest days this fall that did not feature some sort of precipitation. A brief hailstorm one day prompted Moore to rush his volunteers out of the field for an unplanned break.  

Volunteer Louis Heller was taking advantage of his recent retirement to volunteer on the harvest. "It's very peaceful," he said of the work.

Cyndi Schneider, of Pawcatuck, worked every day of the harvest this year. "It's great therapy for the fall," Schneider said of her third year volunteering for the harvest. "It's something to look forward to every fall."

The vineyard grows four varieties on 16 cultivated acres in North Stonington: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, and Gewürztraminer.

Wednesday was the last day of the 2021 harvest. Volunteers come from across the region, many drawn from the vineyard's Wine Club.

Tina Quinn made the drive down from Columbia for her first stint volunteering. She is a regular in the tasting room and friend and fellow regular Heidi Lee, of Andover, suggested they add the harvest to their activities.

The grapes harvested Wednesday will be ready for consumption in 12-15 months according to Moore. The Cabernet Franc grapes harvested last year have not been bottled yet, but will be soon according to Moore, as supplies are running low.


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