We have some wonderful friends near Wabasha, Minnesota that have a vineyard on the bluff above the Mississippi River. Each year we journey south to help with the harvest, and today the grapes were calling us. We left the Twin Cities with a clear sunrise, but as we headed towards the river the fog became thicker and thicker. Even when we got to Lake Pepin, where the Mississippi is so wide it’s called a lake, there was no lake to see. I love to photograph in the fog because it can create a clean palette to work with designs and lines, and we stopped along our trip so I could do just that. But as we headed up the bluff, away from the river to the vineyard, we broke out into the sunshine once again. Some of the trees in the area are just starting to show some yellows and golds for fall colors. From the top of the bluff I was amazed to see the layers in this photograph: the grape vines are loaded with grapes, the trees are showing some color, the Mississippi River is socked in with fog, and the Wisconsin bluffs are visible on the other side with blue sky above. It was a beautiful day to be outside picking grapes, visiting our friends and the others that were gathered to help with the harvest.
Yesterday was part 2 of our 2010 grape harvest experience. For the past few years we’ve helped some friends who live on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River harvest their acre of grapes. This is certainly a much larger operation than our one concord grape-vine! Six of us worked most of the day, stopping only for lunch, and made good progress. It’s delightful to work amongst beautiful scenery, with good conversation and good laughter. Certainly makes the harvest much more enjoyable and fun. We spent the day harvesting frontenac gris, although we were treated to tastes of all the varieties of grapes our friends are growing. The alpenglow grapes that are pictured here are a beautiful shade of soft yellow/green, that develop a light blush as they ripen. I can attest to their most wonderfully sweet and juicy flavor. After the sun had set and we had been in the vineyard all day, we retreated inside to a delightful meal and were able to lift our glasses to toast this year’s harvest with a glass of wine from last year’s harvest.
Our harvest of concord grapes was plentiful. With pans and trays of the purple grapes everywhere, the sweet smell of summer has been wafting through our kitchen. Their fresh aroma is strong and intoxicating, and it strengthens as the grapes simmer on the stove, crack open, and release their juices. For now we’re enjoying a deliciously flavorful concord grape sorbet that melts in the mouth — a small taste goes a long way. It’s a deep, dark color of rich purple; almost (but not quite) too beautiful to eat. And we also have a plethora of concord jelly ready for the upcoming months. When the snow is piled around and the temperatures are cold, we’ll open a jar of grape jelly and be quickly transported back to the waning days of summer.
We spent some time this past weekend driving south along the Mississippi River. On a beautiful fall day we drove to Wabasha and helped some friends with their grape harvest. With the warm sun, the smell of grapes on our hands, beautiful scenery, and good friends and conversation we picked Marquette grapes for about seven hours. After a delicious dinner-feast (coupled with the best wine!), we drove further south to Winona and spent the night. I got out of bed early, anxious to explore a town I hadn’t been to before. As the sun rose on a beautiful morning, the old bridge crossing the Mississippi River was silhouetted against the clouds that were streaming across the sky. After a couple of hours the clouds increased, the sun disappeared, the wind came up, and it started to rain. Luckily we had indoor activities planned – a visit to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (a hidden gem, worth a good 2+ hour visit) and the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It was a busy weekend, but one filled with new sights, good conversation, great company, and new adventures.