Saturday, 20 August 2011

Wine Trail of Botetourt County, Virginia

Today I drove the Wine Trail of Botetourt County.  The Wine Trail consists of three family-run vineyards in close proximity:  Virginia Mountain Vineyard, Blue Ridge Vineyards, and Fincastle Vineyard.

Located about fifty miles from The Star city, The Wine Trail of Botetourt County is a good day trip.  And there are spectacular views enroute.

I left Roanoke after noon, and expected to visit all three vineyards before dinner. However, I got side- tracked at my first destination, Blue Ridge Vineyards.

I asked Teresa in the tasting room if I could help Blue Ridge Vineyards with the harvesting and winemaking process.  She directed my query to the owners, Barbara and Jim, retired professors from Texas.

Barbara not only allowed me to participate in the harvesting process, but she gave me a grand tour of the facilities.

Blue Ridge Vineyards makes seven types of wine in a building behind the tasting room.

First, Barb showed me the refrigerated room where freshly picked grapes are stored in their lug baskets.  Each lug can accommodate 35 to 40 pounds of grapes.

The first step in the winemaking process is to run the grapes through a press. White wine making and red wine making press processes are different.  White wine grapes are pressed for juice and the grape skins are discarded.  Red wine grapes are pressed for pulp, a combination of juice and skins.

Next, yeast is added to the juice (white wine) or pulp (red wine).  Over a one to two-week process, the yeast converts the sugar in the juice or pulp to ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide.  This is known as primary fermentation.

Red wines (and select white wines) undergo a secondary fermentation whereby malic acid is converted to lactic acid, a process that makes the wine less acidic, softening it's taste.  After secondary fermentation, red wines are sometimes aged in oak barrels to impart an oak taste to the liquid.  After removal from the barrels, the wine is settled, clarified and filtered before being bottled.

Obviously, this is a simplistic description of the process...

After Barb's overview of the wine making process, she allowed me to harvest grapes.  Mark, one of the workers at the vineyard, gave me a ride out to the vineyard on his four-wheeler.

At vineyards, grapes are harvested mechanically or by hand.  The advantage to mechanical harvesting is that it's quicker, but the machines also collect leaves, stems and other extraneous matter that has to be removed before pressing.

At Blue Ridge Vineyards, grapes are harvested by hand.  When white wine grapes turn a light purple color, they are ready for harvesting.

 A picture of a yellow lug basket, garden shears for harvesting grapes, and the light purple white wine grapes.

Mark and I harvested grapes for two hours.  Here are some views from the vineyard.

Blueridge Vineyards has almost enough lugs of grapes to press and I was invited back to the vineyard to help.

This was the first day since I left Marrakech, Morocco that I felt surprised by life. When I woke up, I never expected that six hours later I'd be four-wheeling through a vineyard and harvesting grapes.  It's a feeling that international travel gave me almost daily, but is usually absent (at least for me) in normal life. Most days, I can pretty much predict how my day is going to unfold (example: wakeup, workout, eat, shower, work, eat, work, eat, read, write, bed).  I'm not sure what the fix is to that, but I'm pondering it...     

No comments:

Post a Comment