We arrived at about 10:15 a.m. and the grapes were still covered with their bird-proof mesh netting. A flock of determined birds can wipe out a grape crop faster than you can say “Chardonnay.”
So our first item of business was to walk in front of the tractor and net roller, loosening the netting from the vines and posts so it could be winched into a storage barrel.
After removing the netting, we broke for lunch, and at 1 p.m., the rest of the volunteer pickers showed up. Since it was a Thursday afternoon, we were retired volunteers—friends and relatives of Florian and Aggie who think of an afternoon in a vineyard as a great way to spend the day.
But man, was it was cold! The temperature only got into the very low 40s all day with overcast skies and a northwest breeze. It wasn't hard to believe we'll get our first frost tonight. But everybody was in a good mood and jokes were flying almost as fast as grapes.
The collecting containers began to fill and the vines were looking emptier. My hands were turning purple, but I kind of liked them that color. I secretly hoped the purple wouldn’t wash off for a few days.
I think most people have a vision of grape harvesters as romantic-looking Italian people with brightly colored skirts, aprons, scarves in their hair, and purple feet. But remember, we were picking Frontenac grapes developed by the University of Minnesota to survive in Minnesota’s definitely un-Mediterranean climate. So snowmobile suits, fleece jackets, vests, stocking caps, and Tom's old ski jacket, circa 1990, worked just great.
Aggie paused next to one of the containers of grapes that would be weighed and sold to Carlos Creek Winery. I think she was very relieved to have the grapes gathered before tonight’s frost.
Life is grand! Retirement is great! It didn’t even matter that it was only 41 degrees outside—it couldn’t have been a more perfect day.