This interview with Carlo Devito of Hudson-Chatham Winery is the first in a series of interviews I had with the winemakers or owners of some of the wineries in the Hudson Valley and what harvest means to them.
1. What does Harvest mean to you?
Hard work! There is nothing so romantic as the first day of harvest, sometime around Labor Day. And by the time the last racking is done in November, you've pretty much decided that the cushy desk job you gave up doesn't seem so bad now. Of course, I'm into corporal punishment, because I keep going back for more. LOL But seriously, its harrowing and nerve wracking. Hoping you're getting it done all correctly.The smallest misstep might result in a catastrophic disaster. In the end, it all seems to always come out. Still, some days start at 5am and don;t end until 11 or midnight. We use our farm trucks more this time of year and the rest of the year put together. Its a zoo coordinating help, equipment, floor space, and clean barrels or fermenters
2. What are factors in knowing when is the right time to pick the grapes?
Nature is the first to tell you.The birds and the deer will let you know your grapes are ready. Competing factors are the weather and the grapes themselves. Some grapes have thick skins and can hang a little longer than others. Grapes like Pinot Noir and Baco Noir however, can be finicky during harvest, especially if you are pushing your fruit to the very limit in order to chase sugar. The other argument is that as you wait for sugars to rise, you might be losing something else, usually acidity. In reds,it's not such a big factor, but in whites it's a HUGE factor.
With some vineyard blocks, we will make two or three passes through those blocks as all the grapes do not ripen at the same time. We only pick the rpe fruit, and leave the others on until they mature. it's a pain on the winemaking deck to keep three separate runs of the same group clear inside your own head, but it's the only way to make good wine some years
3. Once the grapes are picked, what is the process of getting it from vine to bottle?
Whites are relatively simple. They are pressed and go into fermentors. They wil stay there for about five to six weeks before they are racked, and finally put to bed. Red wines linger much longer. The last are finally pressed in November. And all through the season, the longer masceration times require more and more punch downs. I remember one time Steve Casscles the winemaker was racking in a foot of snow at the end of October one year. He was not a happy boy.
4. Do you have any activities that allow the public to participate in harvest (ie. grape picking, cellar rat for a day?)
NO...we do allow people to come visit the crush pad and watch at a distance.
5. What events do you have for the public if any to celebrate the Harvest? (ie. Harvest party, grape stomping etc.)