Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grape Picking at Peace Valley Winery

One of the things that I don't like about traveling abroad during the summer is missing out on the best of canning season. I've been trying to time my trips around the tomato crop, so poor Jeff isn't forced to attempt to can ten and twelve pound batches by himself. Even so, the whole time I was away, I was thinking about what I might be missing. I really wanted to can some peaches this year - what if the season ended before I got home? What if the berries were done as well? What if there was nothing good left to can? (As you can see, I'm a worrier.)

Clearly, I should not have worried: peaches are still available, berries are still available, tomatoes have not yet peaked. I haven't missed anything. And, in fact, I have arrived just in time for the opening of new delicious crops. While I was in London last week, I was thrilled to get an email from Peace Valley Winery announcing the beginning of pick-your-own grape season. Jeff and I have visited the winery a few times. When we were there last winter, the lady manning the wine tasting counter told us a story about the pick-your-own grapes they offered. While there are lots of pick-your-own places near us, I'd never heard of anyone having grapes before. I filed this away in my brain for later. So when I got the email, I was thrilled and immediately informed Jeff that we would be going on Sunday.

Sunday morning came and, after church, we drove over with basket at the ready and were directed to a dozen rows of ripe Fredonia grapes. The smell was amazing - a sticky, heady aroma that took me back to running around my grandparents' backyard as a kid, stealing grapes off the vine. The flavor is so familiar, I think that they had Fredonias as well - I'll have to compare when I go see Grandma later this week.

I'm not sure what I expected grape picking to be like. I guess I must have thought the grapes would be at different stages of ripeness. I certainly didn't think it was going to be so easy (as easy as picking cherries). We chose a spot (which really just amounted to spreading out from the people in other rows - every spot was a good one!) and then started clipping heavy, juicy bunches from their vines.

There were grapes everywhere. It wasn't a difficult task. The difficulty lay in trying not to take too many! The grapes were a bargain at $0.75 a pound, so money wasn't an issue - eating them before they went bad would be the tricky part! We were planning a few canning projects and wanted some left over for eating, so we tried to use moderation. After a few minutes we ended up with eight or nine pounds of gorgeous opaque purple grapes in our basket.

We did visit the pick-your-own vegetable fields as well, but since our produce bins are already overflowing from the CSA, we ended up stopping after half a dozen ears of corn. From what I could see, though, it would be a fun place to bring kids and load up a wagon with summery goodness. As it was, I was happy to take my basket of grapes and hie back home to cook up some jam, which you'll be hearing about soon!

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