Author Archives: Rebecca Harger

Say Yes to the Mess

Trying out some new gadgets for cleaning up

Harvest days are fun and rewarding. But at some point, everything that went into the fermentation tank must come out and those days are long and messy. White grapes are pressed off their skins at harvest and dealt with promptly. The red grapes, however, are fermented on their skins to extract a desired amount of color and tannin. This year we pumped the young Concord wine from the high valve shown. Seeds have settled below the valve. The skins, having risen to the top, gradually ride down as the wine level drops during pumping. When the manway is opened, a deep layer of skins is revealed now resting on top of the seed layer. In the photo above, I am trying out some new gadgets. A sanitary plastic shovel cuts into the cake of skins and is a good tool for starting but I found myself reaching for the flat rake to finish. A bag of sleeve protectors were a gift from my brother-in-law, Paul, which were comfortable and could easily be changed throughout the day. And yes, those are puppy pads on the floor. We use them to absorb big spills.

Fried Sweet Corn

Stir up this late-summer feast with treasures from the farmer’s market.
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3 ears of fresh corn
1 green pepper
1 yellow squash
1 can of red kidney beans
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
fresh cilantro
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Carve corn off the cob. Melt butter in skillet on medium heat and add corn, stirring occasionally. Slice green peppers lengthwise. Slice squash into 1/8″ slices and halve. Add vegetables and beans to corn mixture. Add seasoning, stir and cover until squash is tender. The red pepper flakes add a spicy heat and can be omitted or substituted for a smaller amount of ground cayenne pepper. Add fresh cilantro to taste. Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a side dish.

A “Sip and Paint” Class

Photo by Kiln Creations, Noblesville, Indiana

September 30th 2020, 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Join us here on a pleasant autumn evening for a fun, outdoor and socially-distanced event. As part of their “Sip and Paint” series, we welcome Kiln Creations as they present a class titled “Sip and Pumpkin.”
The $40 class fee includes:

  • One medium ceramic pumpkin
  • One small ceramic pumpkin
  • All of the paint and instructions to make these beautiful masterpieces
  • Your first glass of wine or a Pick 4 Sampler

We will paint together, then your pumpkins will be taken to the ceramic shop for a short dip in a hot kiln. You will be notified when they are ready for pick up at Kiln Creations, 60 N 9th St in downtown Noblesville. For tickets follow the link below and clip on the “Sip and Pumpkin” event.

https://www.kilncreations.net/book-now

There are no refunds for this event. Should you need to cancel, Kiln Creations will send you a gift certificate to redeem in their store.

Picking a Picking Day

Clipped clusters await testing for sugar development and acidity.

The grape harvest involves a lot of hard work by many people, but I have often felt the most difficult task of the harvest for me is picking the day. There are so many elements to consider. The grapes need to be ripe enough but not endangered by birds or too much rain. Then the weather needs to cooperate providing a window of dry and preferably “not sweltering” conditions. But most importantly, we need to assemble a crew of folks available to help.

Once the sugar and acid tests begin, we can better anticipate ripeness and the effects of weather patterns. For many excruciating days, I imagine a thousand scenarios but I eventually I am forced to action. Starting with crush pad workers, I send out “feeler” messages asking the potential crew members about their availability between this and that date. As the responses trickle back, a consensus forms and with a final nod from the weather man, the final answer emerges. Picking day is announced!

Unfortunately, there are always some who are available some days but ultimately not the day chosen…and I hate that! It’s the hardest part of the process to not be able in include everyone who is willing to help. I always hope the next variety will work out for them or maybe even next year. I would love to have you join the crew and experience picking day for yourself. Please send me an email if you’re interested!

Coronavirus Response – Day 157

Breaker, Breaker One-Nine. How ’bout cha good buddy? You got your mask on?

For five Saturdays this summer, we were open for wine tasting and tried to establish a new normal in operations. This included my wearing of a face covering (as Brian demonstrates above) and gloves during the preparation of a disposable self-contained set of wine selection samples. Limiting our table seating to outdoors was already normal for us and adding a one-way traffic flow was easy enough. A few of these days had a heat index approaching 100, but we were happy to be open and provide an opportunity to distance in a social setting.

Then the governor’s plan to reopen in stages stalled out. Instead of proceeding to Stage 5 on July 4th, the governor inserted Stage 4.5 that held us at 50% capacity and then issued a mask mandate for all visitors of public places. His order was in response to an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations across Indiana. In more detail, the Indianapolis mayor retracted the opening of bars and nightclubs, restricting a few wineries in the process.

I am not being critical of the leadership. In fact, I appreciate their courage to make the hard decisions, but this left us in an awkward position.

Adjacent to Marion County, we could still operate…so that’s good. But we are just a few miles from Indianapolis – an area determined to be high risk…so that’s bad. After much consideration, we decided to take a step backward and again suspend our tastings and outdoor table service starting July 25th. Our current compromise includes party hosting under the new mask mandate plus a few other restrictions. Curbside pick-up continues on Saturdays for customers who call ahead. We feel having an appointment helps us guarantee a safe setting for an expected number of people. For now, this compromise is where your safety, our own comfort level, and the diminished demand for our services all meet. We look forward to better days!

Social-Distancing in the Vineyard

SPECIAL HOURS:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 29th 2020, 1-7 pm
SUNDAY, AUGUST 30th 2020, 1-7 pm


We love to have visitors take a tour through the vineyard any time of the year. But late August is the most colorful and rewarding. Although the winery has suspended tastings for most of the summer, we encourage folks to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the grapes at their peak. Some guests enjoy a guided tour with details about each variety growing here and how they are featured in our wines. Others prefer a private romantic stroll. The vineyard also provides the perfect place for a family conversation about where grapes come from and what wine is.

Concords are still ripening while the Swenson Reds and Prairie Stars are ready for harvest.
LaCrescent vines enjoyed a leafy year after the late freeze. The Norton block seems to have most of its primary shoots carrying fruit with only minimal freeze damage.

Our Wines Take Flight

Introducing the “Pick 4 Sampler”

To help meet the challenges of 2020, we are changing the format of our wine tasting. The new individual packages include a flight of 4 wine selections totally 6 ounces and a shot of crackers. The “Pick 4 Sampler” sells for $5.00 and creates several advantages including faster service and ensured sanitation. The disadvantage is we will miss the opportunity to chat with visitors about each wine as our previous presentations afforded. Please feel free to ask questions or request a tour through the vineyard where we can again drone on about the vines.

Coronavirus Reponse – Day 100

Welcome to our new normal.

On Saturday, June 20th we resumed wine service as Indiana moves into Stage 4 of the Governor’s re-opening plan. It’s been 100 days since we first sheltered-in-place back in March. Then we started the curbside pickup, but finally now guests can again order a glass or bottle of wine and enjoy it in our outdoor seating. Aside from the social distancing requirements it all feels nicely back to normal.

Our wine tasting, however, has undergone some changes. It was decided the interaction time needed to be reduced at the tasting bar. This speeds up the wait time for those distancing in line, and our individual packaging ensures the server is not coming in contact with used cups. So now until further notice, the “Pick 4 Sampler” is your wine tasting and sells for $5. You can make their selections from a list of 11 wines, receive your sampler and be on your way to the seating area. A one-way traffic pattern asks guests to circle back to original line for additional purchases. Yes, it’s a little awkward and it gets hot under those masks and gloves but this is our new normal. We hope you know that your safety is important to us and also hope you have confidence to get back out to the Indiana wineries and enjoy the rest of the season!

A Seriously Late Freeze

LaCrescent vines regain their green after cold snap

Depending on who you ask, our region’s average last frost is May 10th…or the 15th…or the 30th. So it’s hard to breath that sigh of relief until we are out of that May window. The vines typically show much growth in May but the threat of frost is ever present. Frost is one thing and a freeze is another. The week of May 3rd began with a hot 82-degree day. Five days later the temperature plunged to 28 degrees plus some wind chill There are several strategies to mitigate the difference of a few precious degrees but at 28 there is nowhere to hide.

We began our pruning for 2020 in the LaCrescent block with that variety always being the first to emerge. Much effort went toward retraining some misshapen or diseased vines. New shoots were unfolding picture-perfect on newly-stretched cordons. Those efforts were thwarted by the freeze, causing this year’s growth to eventually come from different parts of the vine than we intended. Other varieties were less impacted and experienced spotty injury that still follows the existing shape. The Concord vines had not been pruned before the freeze event and remain unpruned still. It appears that the first buds on last year’s canes are the dominant growth and that is what we would hope for anyway. They will need a little haircut to remove the damaged ends which budded first. Overall this year’s harvest yield will be lower than average, but we are thankful to see the vines recovering, generating plenty of leaves to remain strong and healthy.

Left: The brown shriveled start of a desirable shoot hangs from the spur. Two bully shoots emerge from the spur’s node creating a challenge for next year’s pruning. Right: Shoots that survived the freeze still bloomed and pollinated on schedule by Memorial Day. Looks like a nice fruitset on these clusters all the way to the tip.

Coronavirus Response – Day 62

It’s time to start thinking about opening up!

A robin laid her eggs just off the patio in the low boughs of a juniper tree. With our frequent trips to the vineyard this spring, she is likely regretting her decision. As much as we try to cut a wide path around, she almost always jumps off the nest with much squawking.

This little nest inspires us in many ways. Despite the virus lock-down, the elements of spring have continued full-steam ahead. Soon these baby birds will have to awaken to the world and face the challenges it holds.

Our Facebook page featured the photo above with the same caption. We needed to finalize our decisions on how to re-open the winery after two months of having no public hours. The end of April, the governor revealed that his plan would unfold in 5 phases. The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) also advised the wineries that we fell in the 4th of the 5 phases as “Bars, Nightclubs…Tourism.” We were okay with that, but there were still some decisions to be made.

The release for phase 4 is June 14th and then at 50% capacity. Focusing on Saturday hours still, that puts our first possible day to serve wine on June 20th. That’s a long time from now. So we are sensing it is prudent to institute the curbside delivery used by other wineries during the stay-at-home order. May 16th will be our first day to operate in this fashion. I was hoping that the robin’s nest would again serve as our graphics for the announcement, but the week has gone on with no change. Resorting to some bad photo enhancement, the following image accompanied today’s posted schedule for curbside pickup, outdoor tasting, and finally party hosting.

We’re open but it’s not pretty!