After seeing an email last weekend about the opportunity to volunteer and harvest grapes at a local winery, I psyched up my family to spend the day with me and contribute to the local food economy by being a part of this year’s grape crop. I figured, hey, I’ve drug them to enough cheese factories, let’s try something different, right?
Well, turns out that picking grapes is fun for exactly 33 minutes. After that, your arms get tired, the mosquitoes start biting, the bees start hovering and your shirt is so wet from reaching in through a dew-covered canopy that you begin to realize your choice of wearing a white t-shirt may not have been such a good idea.
All in all, however, spending a morning harvesting grapes in a beautiful, peaceful setting at Botham Vineyards near Barneveld, Wis., was actually very educational.
We arrived at 8 a.m. and were briefed by co-owner Sarah Botham on the proper technique of harvesting grapes – glove on left hand and clippers on right – given a yellow tub, and set on our way. About every 20 minutes, Sarah (pictured above) would come by on her tractor and trailer, and we would dump our yellow tubs of grapes inside. All in all, a very organized operation.
I must admit that prior to the grape-harvesting experience, I had never tried any of Botham Vineyard’s wines. Turns out that several of them are very good with cheese. Here are my recommendations:
- Big Stuff Red — a semi-dry red that goes well with blue cheese and Gorgonzola
- Field III — a dry red that is awesome with aged cheddar or harder washed-rind cheeses
- Cupola Gold – a semi-dry white good with just about any mixed-milk cheese made by Carr Valley — I had a whole bunch of goat/cow, cow/sheep and cow/goat/sheep cheeses of Sid Cook’s in my fridge, and they all went well with this wine.
Also, if you’re looking for a good website to learn about wine pairings, I can’t say enough good things about Natalie MacLean’s wine matcher. It allows you to pair wine with cheese, seasonal fall produce, game meats, pizza, egg dishes, TV dinners, breads and desserts. The site has more than 364,000 food and wine combinations, as well as thousands of recipes for planning holiday parties and Christmas turkey dinner. Very useful!