A New Harvest: Making Wine In New England a Partnership is Born

One of the remarkable and truly wonderful things about this industry is the generosity of the people that I encounter.  I suppose we are all drawn to one another by an obsession with food and wine—commodities that are far more satisfying when shared with others, so perhaps we are inclined to a position of giving.  We also like to share in the experience, so it was not a surprise when a friend in the biz, as we say, asked why we don’t make some wine together. He and I both have participated in harvests at home and abroad, we both have small wine businesses here in Rhody, we have dabbled in making wine ourselves with some success, and we have a lot of laughs hanging out together.  These really are the only prequistites for making wine in collaboration, so I agreed: “Let’s do it!”

My friend, I should mention, is Mike de Cruz, who owns a very cool cooperatively owned wine bar in Providence called  “Fortnight,” and if you have not been, run don’t walk.  The wine list is so interesting, filled with delicious, well made, small production wines, that make it makes it really difficult to pick what you will drink.  Mike is, in equal measure, the easiest and the most obstinate person I have ever met...and if you are thinking that you have thought the same about me, keep it to yourself, but let’s just say, there is a reason we get along so well.

Luckily, we agree on most things;) And without hesitation, we decided that we should do it here in New England, and we set our sights on some ungrafted Vidal Blanc here on Aquidneck Island.  Yes, there is really good local wine (at the risk of overdoing, I won’t put this in caps, but I have to restrain the impulse).  If you have not had some, come in and I will tell you all about the work that Richard Carmichael does at Greenvale Vineyards or Jim at Verde, and then we can talk about the wineries in the broader New England region and even the Northeast who are producing some compelling wines that you should be enjoying with your friends.  I have learned in the work that I have done in making wine the last few years that good wine can be made anywhere as long as you have good grapes; it all starts in the vineyard, and there are grapes ideally suited for this climate.  Yes, you know it always comes back to responsible agriculture appropriate for the climate; call it provenance or terroir, as you will, so Aquideck Island is as good a place as any to make our wine!

Our work began with harvesting grapes at Greenvale Vineyards.  First, I must thank the friends who came out to help us pick.  What a lovely surprise that so many people support our cause to make delicious wine from responsibly cultivated fruit.  We got there at day break, the dew was still sitting on the grass and there was a chill in the autumn air.  We shared coffee while going over a few tips about picking. It is simple, but when you have not done it before, you need to see how it is done.  The beauty of this pick is that the grape bundels were so healthy, with very little to worry about in terms of rot or damage, so the pick was easy.  The Vidal has a muted yellow skin, some light green still remained, and a hint of light brown freckles, which I will always argue is a good thing;) 

As the sun rose to warm our busy hands, we were well on our way to filling the bins with a ton of great fruit.  I felt elated, running bins down the rows of vines, checking in with friends to see how they were doing, talking about wine, and meeting new friends.  Along with Mike, Ethan Joseph from Shelburne Winery in Vermont is joing in the project, and I am thrilled to have his expertise.  Ethan makes Iapetus, a line of place driven wines that are another example of the finess and quality that can be achevied in New England wine making.  Despite the early morning, I was aflutter with ideas about our wine, and so were Mike and Ethan...I can’t tell you all the secrets just yet, but there may be something sparkling in my future.  More on the harvest when I return from Tuscany and get my feet into the grapes up in Vermont.  For now they will cold soak for a while, getting some skin exposure....