Picking Your Own Grapes - or, Picking Your Bucket List
We pick early September - early October
REMEMBER, CRUSHING AND PRESSING OF GRAPES PICKED AT THE VINEYARD ARE FREE. Please have your grapes ready for pressing 1.5 hours before vineyard close. Whites may take even longer on busy days. You can help us on busy days if needed. It's easy, just ask us to show you how.
Note* About red grapes. We prefer to only crush and de-stem red grapes, and not press them out, until they have been fermented on. You can bring them back, if you prefer, days later to have them pressed. We do this because they make a better wine when fermented loosely on the skins, and they take up a lot of time during busy days. At home, after they have been fermented, you can easily press them out by pouring through a nylon bag and squeezing them lightly. Thank you for your understanding
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, this includes concords too, then pressed afterwards. This results in more flavor in your wine than if you simply pressed out the juice immediately, as you do with white wines. The skins contain a lot of essential red wine flavors and tannins.
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. 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. It's hard to stop once you start. It's first come first serve, within reasonable limits. Also, we try hard not to allow some customers early picking. It makes it unfair to others.
Picking for Customers We will pick for customers after the initial 3 picking dates for that variety. As mentioned above, we have no limit on the amount of grapes customers may pick, once at the vineyard. Occasionally we may close a row for what I have promised to a winery, however.
We do our best to balance everything out but we cannot control the weather, or other natural and unnatural occurrences, siuch as crop size. We charge .30 for grapes we pick for customers.
It's very easy to pick our grapes.
1. First you tell us what variety of grapes you want. We are standing at the table to serve you! You may taste them to start your juices flowing. We also don't mind if you eat some in the vineyard while picking. It's hard to resist the irresistible.
2. We tell you what rows those grapes are in. We have a handy vineyard map which you can take with you.
3. You select your buckets. We carry 4, 5 and 6.5 gallon buckets. Our signs will tell you how many pounds of grapes each size bucket will hold, and how many pounds it takes to make a gallon of wine.
4. We give you clippers and you can pick till your heart's content, or your buckets are full. You can come back and get more buckets if your vehicle can hold them.
5. You bring your buckets to our scale, where you can help us weigh them. You then take your buckets 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 carry them to the press, where we show you how to press them. Soon you are filling your container, and are merrily on your way. Note: for reds you can crry them back in your open primary fermentor, for whites you will want to bring a glass carboy or container, which you can close tightly, so your juice doen't spill. You must tie them up securely in your vehicle!
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). We even have information on how to deal with high acid wines!
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 1919 Monroe St. and they are a good, complete winemaking and beermaking supply shop. See www.wineandhop.com for more information, or call 608-257-0099. We highly recommend them.