Fall in Ontario is such a glorious time of the year: cool nights, warm days, rich colours and snuggly clothes. Out in the vineyard the furious growth of the summer slows and the plants put all their energy into ripening the gorgeous clusters of grapes they’ve worked so hard to create. For most it’s just a lovely time of year to enjoy slowing down and getting back into a routine.

For winemakers it’s the moment we’ve been waiting for.

Personally I lose some sleep in the weeks coming into crush (wine-speak for the time of the year when grapes are harvested and wine is made) due to a slight simmering sense of panic that develops right alongside the grapes in our vineyard. The planning, prepping, and of course, the feeling that the entire success of the following year rests on what we can create in six short weeks this year.

Leading up to crush at The Roost we’re tracking ripening in the vineyard. This means we’re out picking berry samples every few days or so and testing them to see where their sugar, acid and pH levels are. We’re also tasting the berries and asking ourselves a lot of questions: are they soft? Is the colour even? What kinds of flavours are developing? What’s the weather forecast? Are the berries rain-swollen? What’s the predation like from raccoons, birds, turkeys, coyotes, my dog? Any rot or damage? If the pressure is high, how long can we leave the clusters before we absolutely have to bring them in?

I admit it: I get a bit of an adrenalin rush when I get the numbers I’m looking for from my berry sample – woo hoo it’s go time! But there are other things to consider too. Do we have enough pickers? Is it going to rain? Are we done the cellar prep? And of course, something that we really need is always on back-order!

Calling a harvest is nail-biting, sleep-disrupting decision – but it also signals the start of a fantastic in-the-zone, whirlwind of activity and creative flow. We might complain a bit and begrudge the lack of sleep, but the secret is, most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jessica Maish

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