Wine’s journey from grape to glass requires a lot of dedication and backbreaking work.
Picture this: You’re sitting at home, on the couch, after a long day, feet up….holding a glass of vino in your hand (I’m quite familiar with this setting). You sip the wine, banter about your day, then go to bed. That is what the average Joe does on a weekly basis. The average Joe is not savoring each sip, appreciating the juice, because they don’t know the grit that goes into making that said glass. Here is where I come in.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Jon and Cori Phillips, owners of VA Wine Reserve at Waterford, in helping harvest their Petit Verdot grapes of this 2019 season. A little backstory- formally known as Loudon Valley Vineyards, Jon and Cori purchased this space about 5 years ago with the intention of providing their guests a truly unique tasting experience. In true Virginia fashion, they are producing Petit Manseng, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot wines, and lovely blends from the above mentioned. Each bottle though, has a special story behind it, which makes them stand out from the rest.
Now for the sweaty part- let me tell you about my day at Harvest. My only experience with harvest until this point, has been seeing people on Instagram taking cute pictures amongst the vines while holding grapes in their hand. Boy, was this deceiving.
It was a balmy 80-some degrees when I arrived at 6 am, and at that point I knew that I wasn’t going to be taking any cute pictures that day. We were given all of our equipment- gloves, shears, bins and told to start clippin’! Almost 20 rows of Petit Verdot to cut back- that can’t take too long right?- was my naïve thought. Now fast forward a few hours: the sun has risen, I am parched (despite chugging loads of water), my fingers are cramped, my back is breaking and we are getting Macauley Caulkined (cue My Girl) by bees. Thankfully, the bees were only interested in sucking on the juicy fruit, not my skin, so for that- I was grateful. Regardless, it is an unsettling feeling to try to concentrate on the task at hand while actively being swarmed. Now, do you see why I called this piece “Glamour in the Vines”? After all of the grapes from those 20 rows were picked, (almost 8 hours of pure manual labor), we got to kick back and enjoy some lunch, and sip on some wine from previous vintages. I tasted their 2017 Petit Verdot named “Tenacity”, after Jan Mathov, who is owner/vineyard caretaker/all around badass lady of the plot of land that the grapes are grown on. I also tasted their 2018 Petit Manseng “Smitten”, which I loved as well. My only semi-cute picture from the day, was proudly standing next to the 3 TONS of grapes that we had picked- my sweat had dried by this point.
Honestly, this experience was only one varietal, for one vintage, on only one day. These owners, growers, volunteers, winemakers (and yes, their winemaker Doug Fabbioli was there and helping), their friends/family- they have to go through this exact process for several weeks on end, and then some- in order for you to enjoy that glass of wine on your couch. It is a dedication that I have never experienced firsthand, and I am SO happy that I did. It was extremely humbling, and despite the soreness that I felt for days afterward, I would hands down do it again. The part that I am most excited about though- after this batch of Petit Verdot is de-stemmed, crushed, pressed, fermented, bottled, aged- almost 2 YEARS from now- I will be one of the lucky recipients of this hard earned bottle.