Picking Your Own Grapes - or, Picking Your Bucket List
We pick late early September - mid October in 2013 (till grapes are gone)
We supply picking shears, buckets to pick in, crushers/destemmers to crush your grapes with, and presses to press out your white juice if you are making white wines. Note: red wines are crushed, then fermented on the skins for 3-10 days, depending on variety, and then pressed afterwards.
Please remember that nature plays a major role in determining when our grapes are ripe. The picking season can vary as much as 3 weeks depending on when spring arrives and the summer's warmth. 2010 was early, 2011 started out late but nearly caught up due to the nice warmth in July and August. 2012 was a very strange year, and we are happy to report that 2013 has been about as strange as 2012. Note: Grapes are often best at a certain time in the season. Because of demand it may not be a good idea to wait too long for the grapes you are interested in. We set no limit on what you may pick. For example, a customer may want 1,000 lbs of a particular variety. He could pick it out days before you arrive for picking. We also don't reserve poundage for customers, mainly because it would be impossible. In 2012 a couple in a very small sedan with a 10 year old daughter pulled up, came to the stand intending to pick about 25 lbs of grapes. When they left the front seat was filled with bags atop the passenger's lap, the trunk was full, and their daughter had her face pressed against the side window because the whole back was filled with a range of bags, buckets, and whatnot. It's hard to stop once you start.
It's very easy to pick our grapes. As you can see from the photo gallery below you first locate the grapes you want (or wander some) with our handy vineyard map, then you taste some to make sure they are 'greaat.' Next you pick them and bring them in buckets to our stand, where we weigh them. The grapes are then brought to the crusher de-stemmer, which crushes the grapes while taking the stems out. For red grapes the work is now done, except for you to begin your fermentation process. (we have recipes and instructions) For white grapes, you then take them to the press, where we show you how to press them. Soon you are filling your container, and are merrily on your way.
You can bring your fermented red grapes back the next week to press them out at the vineyard.
What you have to bring:
For red wines, Primary fermenters, usually food-grad plastic. These primaries usually travel well without splashing, but be sure you can keep them upright in your vehicle.
For white wines, you need to bring a container that you can plug up so the juice doesn't splash wildly on your way home. Most customers bring their glass carboys, 1 - 6 gallon containers. You could also bring plastic containers if they are sealable. Again, be sure you can stabilize the containers. Grapes and juice are less fun to pick the second time around!
Ingredients: you especially should bring your sulfite (Campden Tablets) and pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrient, if you use them (most people should)
However, if you forget any of the above, or need ingredients, we stock a fairly good supply of all the common ones - sterilizers, yeast, and most of the usual equipment used in winemaking - such as fermentation locks, carboys, primary fermenters, tubing, hydrometers, acid test kits, and so on.
We don't carry the full range of supplies of a full time shop - but The Wine & Hop Shop is located just 15 miles north in Madison at 1921 Monroe St. and they are a good, complete winemaking and beermaking supply shop. See wineandhop.com for more information, or call 608-257-0099. We highly recommend them.