Debbie Gioquindo




arvest season is the busiest time of year in the
Hudson Valley. Not only is it a critical time for
the region’s craft beverage producers, but it’s
peak tourism season too. (Make sure you make
hotel and restaurant reservations in advance!)
The leaves are changing, the skies are clear, the air is crisp,
and everyone wants to take part in the long-awaited harvest

For winemakers, harvest is the short period of time when the
ripened grapes reach their optimal sugar content, and are
picked, brought to the winery to be crushed and made into
wine. Harvest doesn’t happen in just one day—the process
begins in September, with its pleasant, warm days and cool
evenings, and ends in late October. Sometimes, winemakers
can even be seen crushing grapes in mid-November between
the early snowfalls.

Managing the Anticipation

One of the most frequently asked questions people ask a
winemaker is, “When is the right time to pick the grapes?”
According to Carlo DeVito, owner of Hudson-Chatham Winery
in Ghent, “Nature is the first to tell you. The birds and the deer
will try to eat the crop as soon as its ripe.” Winemakers also
look at the seeds of the grapes. When the seeds begin turning
from green to brown, the time to pick them is not too far off.
But the true answer is determined in the lab where the winemaker tests the grapes for sugar content, acidity, and pH.

For craft beverage producers, it’s also a season when emotions
ride high in anticipation. All of the hard work spent in the fields
throughout the year culminates during harvest, and a new
chapter begins as fruit is processed for the upcoming vintages.
“The biggest reward is to drive onto the crush pad and see
large loads of beautiful fruit, ready to process,” remarks Doug
Glorie of Glorie Farm Winery in Marlboro. “You know you’ve
done everything you can do, and now you can realize the
potential of the fruit. You did it! You pulled it off! Harvest is
the crescendo of farming.”

“To see those clusters and taste the sunlight in the grapes
while you pick them…it is pure joy,” notes Jan Palaggi,
owner of Palaia Winery in Highland.
MORE > • Fall 2016



Celebrating Grapes, Hops & Pomes 



Timing is Everything
It’s not just grapes that get harvested
to be put in the bottle for your future
enjoyment this time of the year. Apples
are harvested for hard cider, vodka,
and gin production; grains and corn are
gathered for whiskies and spirits; and
hops, which are increasingly being
grown in the region, are harvested
for beer.
Distillers like Harvest Spirits in Valatie rely
on their orchard apples to produce vodkas
and brandies. “Each variety of apples has its own
specific time during the season when it must be
picked,” notes owner Derek Grout. “Pick them too early and
they don’t have enough color and sweetness. If you pick them
too late they may be soft or mealy, or they may just fall off the
tree on their own.”
For hops, which grow on trellised bines similar to grape vines,
the end of August to the beginning of September is when
they ripen. According to Ken Maurer of Dutchess Hops in
Lagrangeville, there are several attributes that signal when
its time to harvest hops:
1. Texture: if you can squeeze a cone and it stays
compressed, it’s not ripe enough. It should be springy,
dry, and have a papery feel to it.
2. Appearance: growers look for the visible, thick yellow
residue called lupulin between the leaves of the cone.



When hops are ripe, the bines are cut down and the cones are
then plucked by hand. Dutchess Hops celebrates the season
with an annual hops festival called “Hoptember,” which
features local beers, ciders, and hoppy foods such as hop fries
and hop-smoked brisket. When you take a trip to wine country
during harvest season, you never know what you will stumble
upon, learn about, or be a part of!

Stomping Through the Region
There is nothing like participating in a harvest of any kind. It’s
hard work, fun and rewarding. At Christopher Jacobs Winery
in Pine Bush, it’s all hands on deck for their Harvest Festival.
Volunteer grape pickers are rewarded with a ticket for each
binful of grapes they harvest. Tickets can be exchanged for
picnic items and wine to be enjoyed at the end of the day.
Clermont Vineyards and Winery in Germantown welcomes
willing pickers to help harvest their estate-grown grapes on
certain Sundays during the season. It’s a tough task with an
early start time, but pickers are rewarded with a bountiful meal
afterwards. Demarest Hill Winery in Warwick has a harvest
every Sunday in September, with a feast to follow. Since
harvesting depends on the weather, be sure to check each
winery’s website or Facebook page for more information.
Many wineries will also allow you to visit the crush pad while
visiting in the fall. There, you can see the grapes being
processed first-hand before they become next year’s bottled
reds and whites. And, if you want to take part in grape
stomping, visit Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville on
weekends through October for their Grape Stomping festival.






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Robibero Winery in New Paltz and Benmarl Winery in
Marlboro also host Grape Stomping festivals in the fall. Check
their websites for dates and times. In Highland Mills, Palaia
Winery’s Harvest Festival has grape stomping, pumpkin
decorating, hayrides through the vineyard, and bands on their
outdoor stage. There are local vendors, wine, beer, food, cider,
and donuts for the kids, too.
Apple picking opportunities also abound in the Hudson Valley.
There is nothing like eating a fresh apple right off the tree, not to
mention the applesauce and apple pie you can make with them
once you get home. There are dozens of U-pick farms and
farm markets throughout the region that offer fresh-pressed
cider and donuts, as well as other just-picked produce. Visit
Golden Harvest Farms, home to Harvest Spirits, or the
orchards at Warwick Valley Winery and Applewood Winery
(both in Warwick), where after U-picking you can lay down a
blanket and picnic on the grounds while enjoying live music
and the festive atmosphere.


Good, Clean Fun
Even if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, there are many
other types of celebrations to take part in throughout the
season. Stop in at Hillrock Estate Distillery in Ancram for
their Open House where you can tour the distillery and taste
newly-released spirits while soaking in the foliage. The Annual
Harvest Party at Millbrook Vineyards & Winery sells out
quickly so be sure to get tickets in advance for this exclusive
farm-to-table/farm-to-glass experience.
In early October, don’t miss Goold Orchard’s 28th Annual
Apple Festival in Castleton. It’s a family-friendly celebration
that includes a New York wine tent offering products including
Brookview Station Winery’s wines and ciders made from
estate-grown apples and grapes.
Make a weekend of it and head to Bethel Woods Center for
the Arts in Bethel for their Harvest Festivals (on Sundays in
September) which feature a farm market, craft village, and
plenty of activities for kids. Celebrate wine from the vine at the
Annual Wine Festival, or quench your thirst at the Annual Craft
Beer Festival, a fun-filled day to sample beer and cider from a
variety of producers from across the region, and one of the
largest beer festivals around. Then mark your calendar for the
Crown Maple Fall Festival and the Hudson Valley Wine Tasting
held later in October at Madava Farms in Dover Plains, where
you can take in the spectacular foliage on their maple estate
while sampling the fall bounty.
No matter how you celebrate the season, remember there’s
only one harvest each year—don’t miss it!
—LP • Fall 2016