It’s that time of the year when Gervasi Vineyard Resort & Spa (GV) is preparing for the fall harvest of their vineyards. Harvest time is when GV’s vintners reap their rewards for taking care of the vineyards and the grapes throughout the year.
“During the fall harvest we monitor the grapes daily because it is important to check the fruit for quality and maturity regularly so we can decide the best time to harvest,” said head winemaker, David Smith. “The physical condition of the berries, pH, Acidity, and sugar content of the juice are all important indicators that help us determine when to harvest each variety.”
Gervasi grows several varieties of grapes including Aromella, Marquette, and Frontenac Gris. There are four wines that Gervasi produces from the grapes grown on the property.
Smith said, “The wines we produce using our harvested grapes include Passione, which is made from our Aromella grapes, Lascito is made from our Frontenac Gris grapes, and Unita is made from our Marquette grapes. We also use our grapes in Celebrazione, a red wine that blends both our estate-grown Marquette grapes and Merlot grapes”
Picking, Preparing, and Crushing the Grapes
Grapevines can produce fruit for decades. Currently, all of the vineyards at GV are producing, including the North and South Vineyards. The youngest vines are about eight years old, and the oldest vines are around 14 years old, which Smith said is prime production maturity for grapes.
There is a lot of work that goes into harvesting the grapes starting with picking the grapes off of the vines by hand, called hand-harvesting.
A typical harvest at GV generates around 12 tons of grapes. Smith said that once the grapes are picked and placed into cardboard bins that hold about 1,000 pounds each, the filled bins are then loaded into GV’s Cold Room.
“The Cold Room is a large room set up with refrigeration so that we can cool the fruit down overnight. By the morning the fruit will be cool and ready to destem and crush the berries to prepare them for fermentation,” Smith said.
Getting the Vineyards Ready for Winter
When the grapes are picked, it is time to get the vineyards ready for winter by cleaning up.
Smith said, “The biggest task we do after the fruit comes in is cleaning debris and weeds that may be on the ground under the vines. It is one of the biggest tasks that needs to be done. Beyond that, the vines will go dormant on their own.
“Once the vines are fully dormant, usually around January, it is time to start the first round of dormant pruning. This dormant pruning allows us to remove the majority of last season’s growth which gives us a chance to evaluate the structure of the plants without all the foliage in the way.”
When May comes around, Smith said they will be ready to go through and prune the vines one more time. The second round of pruning allows them to adjust the number of new shoots that will come out in the spring.
Smith added, “Each shoot will give us one to two clusters of grapes. Limiting the number of new shoots every spring helps us keep the vines in a healthy balance. When summer rolls around we will be focused on canopy management.”
“Grape vines will tend to grow more shoots and leaves than what they need for the fruit, and the extra leaves shade the fruit. Shaded fruit won’t ripen as nicely nor develop the same color and flavor as clusters that get the right amount of direct sunlight. This means that we need to go through the vineyard several times in the summer to remove excess leaves and shoots to make sure the grapes get enough sun.”
Fun Facts About GV Grapes
Smith offered a few fun facts about vineyards and growing grapes:
- Each grape on a cluster comes from one flower that blooms on the clusters in the spring.
- All of the grapes GV uses to produce wine for an entire year (about 25,000 gallons) are processed and fermented in September and October each year, that’s it!
- It takes about half a pound (two to three clusters) of grapes to make one glass of wine.
- The best weather for grapes in the spring is a gentle warming of daytime temperatures without major swings in the day-to-day high temps. It is also best for the grapes if we avoid any May frosts or freezes. Frost can do a lot of damage to the young spring growth which will in turn reduce crop yields and fruit quality. Some rain can be good as long as it isn’t too much for days on end.
- In the summer occasional rain spaced apart so there is ample time for the vines and young fruit to be dry is best. Daytime high temperatures in the upper 70’s-80’s are best. When summer temperatures start getting into the high 90’s consistently then that can shut down the vines for a short period. All-in-all the grapes like warm and dry weather without getting too hot.
Another Great Reason to Visit Gervasi
When visiting Gervasi, take a quick look at the vineyards during the different seasons to see the progress and the growth of the grapes before they become one of GV’s amazing wines.
Gervasi offers many ways to learn about the vineyards and the great wines you will find at GV. There are many tastings and tours guests can select to learn while enjoying the wine and the food at GV.
And, of course, our wine experts at The Cave are available to answer many questions about the wines and the wine-making at GV.