It was a perfect late summer
day with the sky so blue it was almost surreal, with grapes ripe and
the bright sunlight set against the vibrant green leaves. It was
time at Gouveia
Vineyards in Wallingford, Connecticut,
and the Adventure
Kids aka Edward F. Nesta and Debra C. Argen
Experience, along with other family and friends gathered to
in the grapes for the new vintage.
Owner and Winemaster Joe Gouveia of the 140-acre Gouveia
Vineyards is like Mark Twain's character Tom Sawyer
who convinces his friends that painting a fence would be great fun. How else
could you explain that we were up very early on a Sunday morning, driving an
hour away to Gouveia Vineyards to harvest grapes when most sensible people were
still asleep in bed?
Lucy, Alli, Joe, Theresa, and Amanda Gouveia
had met Joe several weeks prior when visiting the vineyard and he invited us to
come and participate in the harvesting on September 19, 2010. We distinctly
remember he said, "It would be fun." Oenophiles that we are, we have been to
vineyards and wineries around the world and have seen all aspects of
winemaking, yet we had never had a hand in harvesting so we thought, "Why not?"
Mr. and Mrs. Fattore and Daughters
We arrived at Gouveia
Vineyards a little after 8:00 am
and followed the signs for volunteer parking and registration. Once registered,
we braced ourselves for a day of harvesting grapes, bolstered by cups of Dunkin
Donuts coffee and a donut or two, and chatted with the other volunteers.
Although this was our debut
harvesting grapes, for many of the volunteers, this was their second, third, or
even fourth harvest, so we figured that it must indeed be fun if they kept
returning. Volunteers ranged in age from pre-school to well past retirement
age, multi-generational families came to harvest, people traveled to Gouveia
Vineyards for the experience of harvesting grapes not only from the surrounding
towns, but also from the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, and
as far away as China, Japan, and Mexico. All counted, there were over 250
volunteers who came to help bring in the harvest.
Three Generations of the Fonseca Family Ready to Pick
Wearing sunglasses, jeans,
casual shirts, and sneakers, and armed with clippers and gloves, we were ready
to begin. We eagerly listened as Theresa Gouveia, Joe and Lucy Gouveia's
niece, provided us with instructions on which grapes to pick, namely the plump,
golden ones, and not the small, still green unripe ones. Instruction also
included how we should clip the grapes from the vines and place them in the
plastic trays and buckets provided.
Nick Amarone and Theresa Gouveia Instructing Volunteers
Gouveia Vineyards' grows the
varietals Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc,
Cayuga, St. Croix, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat,
Traminette, and Zinfandel. Due to the long, hot summer, with alternate periods
of rain and dry spells, the grapes were ready two weeks ahead of schedule, and
they had already harvested the St. Croix.
We would begin the day by
harvesting the Seyval Blanc grapes. Once we filled our trays, we would leave
the filled trays behind and move down the row to the next group of grapes,
while volunteers would gather up our filled trays and carry them to the trucks
that would deliver them to the crushing machines to extract the juice and
remove the stems.
Theresa's final words of
instruction before she sent us off were, "No pressure, if you do not pick, we
have no wine ... no pressure. Do not overfill your buckets; otherwise, the grapes
will fall out when the volunteers place them in the trucks. Now go to the end
of the rows and pick everything!"
Debra and Edward Picking Seyval Grapes
When we first met Joe
Gouveia, he told us about growing up in a small village of under 90 people in Portugal where everyone helped
their neighbors at harvest time. His family moved to the United States when he was 14 years
old, and he had the dream of one day owning a vineyard. He realized his dream
in 1999 when he and his wife Lucy established Gouveia Vineyards and planted
32-acres of vines. As we moved along the rows cutting the Seyval Blanc grapes
from the vines, surrounded by volunteers speaking English, Portuguese, Spanish,
Italian, Japanese, and Chinese, it reminded us of Joe's story of growing up in Portugal
where everyone helped one another. Like in Portugal,
the community had gotten together to help the Gouveia family bring in the 2010
crops here in Connecticut.
Volunteers Picking Seyval Grapes
Harvesting grapes by hand is
hard work; first, you must carefully cut the grapes from the vines, trim away
excess stems and remove the leaves, followed by placing the grapes in the
plastic trays, and then carrying the filled trays to the waiting trucks.
Nick Amarone Carrying Bins
There is a lot of bending and
cutting involved, and everyone has his or her own style of going about the task
of harvesting. We watched as some volunteers went about the task of cutting the
grapes from a standing position, others kneeled or crouched, while some of them
sat on the ground or on plastic buckets.
Mrs. Fonseca Picking For The First Time
Our approach was a variation
of all of the methods, we would start out standing to cut the grapes growing
high on the vine, bending at the waist for the mid-level grapes, and then
crouching and kneeling for the low-growing grapes. Our motto was "leave no ripe
grape on the vine." In fact, Theresa regularly reminded people to go up and
down the rows doing "quality inspections" to ensure there were no ripe grapes
Mr. Fattore Using Bucket To Pick Grapes
It was a bright and beautiful
day, with a slight chill in the early morning air, and with clippers in hand,
and the ground still wet with dew, we tackled cutting our first grapes, taking
great care in placing them in the plastic trays, knowing that our efforts would
be part of the 2010 vintage. After about an hour, the sun started to intensify,
and although we were at the end of summer, just days before the beginning of
autumn, the temperature had steadily risen to 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degree
Volunteers in Action
There were so many people
harvesting, that the plastic buckets filled up quickly with grapes lining the
rows ready for the crusher. Edward decided to trade in his clippers and help
carry the filled buckets, which weighed around 15 pounds per bucket, to the
ends of each of the rows where the trucks would load up for the short trip to the
crusher. The "mules" as the carriers were affectionately called, worked as a
team methodically clearing each row while doing quality control scanning the
vines for hidden grapes. Throughout the day, the trucks brought hundreds upon
hundreds of filled buckets to the crusher.
Despite the high temperature,
there was a party atmosphere in the vineyard with music by the Rocha family who
walked down the rows playing their accordions, volunteers sang in their native
languages, and everyone was laughing, chatting with fellow volunteers, making
new friends, and yes, rapidly harvesting the grapes.
The Manuel Rocha Family
By 1:00 pm, we had finished harvesting the Seyval
Blanc grapes and it was time for lunch, an enormous cookout with wine provided
by Joe and Lucy Gouveia. Sitting side by side at long tables under a white
tent, new friendships developed as the volunteers reminisced about their day of
After lunch, we returned to
the vineyard to harvest the Chardonnay grapes, and by then we felt like we were
"pros." We finished the day by watching the trucks unload the grapes into the crushing
machine that extracted the juice and discarded the stems. As we watched the
process, we thought about the fact that when Joe Gouveia bottles the 2010
Sevyal Blanc and Chardonnay vintages, we will have had a part in creating them;
now that is a "Luxury Experience." Cheers!
Crushing the Grapes
Gouveia Vineyards is open year-round Thursday from 11:00 am until 8:00 pm, Friday from 11:00 am until 8:00
pm, Saturday from 11:00
am until 8:00 pm,
and Sunday from 11:00 am
until 6:00 pm.
Stainless Steel to Barrel to Bottle to Your Table
Joe and Lucy Gouveia
encourage visitors to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with a glass of one of
their wines, and there is live entertainment on Saturdays from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm. Their location nestled high on a hill
provides the perfect place to watch the sunset from the outdoor patio, or inside
at a table sitting near the fireplace in the cooler months.
Edward Relaxing With New Friend Olivia
For information on
participating in the next harvest, please contact Gouveia Vineyards.
1339 Whirlwind Hill Road
Wallingford, Connecticut 06482
Read other related articles
on the Connecticut Wine Trail in the Destinations, Restaurants,
For additional information on
the Connecticut Wine Trail, please visit: www.CTWine.com. For additional
information on Connecticut Grown products, please visit: www.CTGrown.gov.