Harvesting Viognier in Maryland

Kathy and I had an opportunity to harvest Viognier at Catoctin Breeze Vineyard in Thurmont, Maryland last week. It was our second harvest this year. Our first experience was harvesting the red grape Lenoir at Messina Hof in Bryan, Texas. The Viognier grapes were just a tad more challenging to pick. Because of their light color, they would sometimes hide from us. We had to look carefully not to miss any clusters.

We also did some sorting in the vineyard. Grapes that were extremely small were removed from the cluster, a task easier to do if you have smaller fingers. There were a few berries removed that may have been showing signs of disease. Most of the time, we removed MOG or materials other than grapes. There wasn’t a lot of MOG to remove. Occasionally there was a stray tendril or leaf to pull out of the cluster. Rarely were their insects in a cluster, but I did remove a couple ants and a couple earwigs. Kathy did find one stink bug. Sorting while picking did slow us down a bit, but wasn’t hard.

What surprised me the most was it took two hours to individually harvest the Viognier in one row. The last two rows went much faster as it was a group effort. There were five volunteers picking the grapes. It seems that we work better if two of us are working on the same row on opposite sides of the vines. Granted that we do spend time talking, but this is the age of multi-tasking and talking and harvesting are two tasks that can be done at the same time.

After harvest, we settled in some lawn chairs and had a glass of wine or a beer. More people drank wine than beer. After a while of relaxing and conversation, we had a wonderful lunch on the patio next to the tasting room. The winemaking crew joined us for lunch. They had been pressing the grapes we were picking earlier.

I remember our first harvest experience many years ago. It took a long time to fill a lug. We haven’t had many experiences harvesting grapes, but we have increased our pace over our first experience. We can fill a lug in just a few minutes compared to 30 minutes back in 2007. However, we lag way behind the professional harvesters we observed in Suisun County. They can harvest a lug of grapes in what seems like seconds. We will have to see our speed with our next harvest in the country Georgia.


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