Area grape harvest begins

Angelica Castro picks grüner veltliner grapes at North Mountain Vineyard in Maurertown on Thursday. Most area vineyards have started picking grapes for wine production. Rich Cooley/Daily

The harvest moon has passed, the leaves are starting to brown, and local vintners are trawling the fields – sometimes in the wee morning hours – working on the grape harvest.

Pending on the specific grape species, the harvest starts around Labor Day and ends in early to mid-October.

Although two frosty April mornings had some vineyard owners worried, most growers have made it out with a hearty crop.

Brad Foster is the owner of North Mountain Vineyard and Winery in Mauretown. He said he had already picked some of his chardonnay and was preparing to pull some of his grüner veltiner grapes this week.

While most vineyards pull grapes by day, Jeff White, owner and general manager of Glen Manor Vineyards in Front Royal, said he and his employees pull grapes between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. to protect the grapes’ aromas and flavors from the daytime heat.

He said he’s already brought in his sauvignon blanc and petit manseng (both whites) and is now ready to start bringing in cabernet franc, his first red.

Despite worries about April’s frosts, the crop came in without too much trouble this year.

“Everything is coming in well this year, we had a great growing season,” he said. “A little wet early on, but this past stretch of dry weather has really helped the grapes and benefited their flavors. I’m excited about the grapes we still have to come in.”

Down at Cedar Creek Winery in Star Tannery, owner Ron Schmidt said he harvested his chardonnay recently. He said given the cool April days, his tonnage is down roughly 25 percent.

“It was a little less than normal because of bud damage from the freeze, so we’re under tonnage by about 2 tons,” he said.

However, his cabernet franc sustained no bud damage, and may be more plentiful than last year’s crop. He said he’ll be plucking it in the next two weeks or so.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com