A glimpse into New Jersey wine’s busiest and most exciting time of year
Harvest season for grapes in New Jersey begins earlier than you may think it does. Some white varieties, like Chardonnay, Vignoles, and Pinot Grigio, can be ready to pick in late August, but not always. Some red varieties like Cabernet Franc and Merlot can hang until October.
Hang? It means exactly what you think it does. The grapes hang on the vine, ripening, until they’re ready to pick.
When Is it The Right Time to Harvest Grapes?
There are two main areas at your favorite New Jersey winery where you can look for signs that harvest has started when you visit. The first is the vineyards. If you see many workers picking grapes and putting them in containers, there’s an excellent chance they are harvesting the grapes to turn into wine.
(If you see workers picking grape bunches and throwing them on the ground, that’s something different. That’s called dropping fruit and it’s done so the vines send energy to the remaining bunches to improve their quality.)
The second place to look is the crush pad. The crush pad is usually an outdoor space attached to the winemaking facility where just-picked grapes are sorted and crushed to turn into juice before heading into the winemaking facility for fermentation. If you see activity happening on the crush pad, you’ll know harvest has started.
Sometimes, in smaller wineries where the winemaking facilities aren’t very far from the tasting room, you can even smell fermentation happening during harvest season. For winemakers and wine lovers, it’s a wonderful aroma.
Celebrating the Harvest
Harvest is a very exciting time, but it’s also a very busy time, the busiest time of the year for most wineries. Not only is harvest happening, winemaking is happening, too. Winemakers are juggling grapes coming in, juice that’s fermenting, wine that’s ready to age, moving barrels around, preparing tanks to hold wine, and so much more.
When a winery chooses to have a harvest festival, it’s usually not in the middle of harvest. They’re just too busy making the wine that we all love to drink, often while looking out at the beautiful vineyards and watching the harvest dance happen.
Once New Jersey’s wineries catch their collective breath and start planning their harvest celebrations, you can be sure we’ll let you know about all of them on our events page, but here are two to put on your calendar now.
- Bellview Winery’ Fall Fest, September 23 and 24. Details on this years’ fall fest are still to come, but in previous years, the celebration of the end of harvest season included food trucks, vendors, live music, vineyard tours, and of course, the winery’s fine wines.
- Monroeville Winery’s Haunted Harvest, October 26. Monroeville throws a Halloween party to celebrate harvest’s end with live music, costume contests, and lots of food and wine.