For Hill Country grape growers, early August isn’t the time to retreat indoors and wait out the last of the hot summer months. The growers, many of them winemakers, are waking up bright and early to harvest their crop for another round of Texas wine — and the crop, this year, is one of the best they’ve had in awhile.
“Despite the hail earlier this year, we’ve got a really strong batch of grapes coming in,” Pedernales Cellars’ Julie Kuhlken said.
She and others at Pedernales Cellars yesterday were working hard at plucking the ready-to-go grapes from the vines, sorting them and getting them primed to start the fermentation process that will lead to wine. Although the Stonewall winery already held its Grape Stomp event this past weekend, many other wineries and vineyards in the region are also knee-deep in grape juice and have Grape Stomps of their own planned throughout this month that any wine lover is free to attend.
Earlier this spring, however, it wasn’t so clear how the Hill Country grapes would fare in the constant rainy weather and a bout of hail that destroyed some of them in April. The relatively dry summer and recent high temperatures have helped a lot in getting the grapes properly ripened.
“Overall, the fruit is looking beautiful and 2015 looks to be a very promising vintage,” Pat Brennan, owner of Brennan Vineyards, said in a press release.
Brennan is excited to be getting “a quality harvest” of Viognier and Nero d’Avola, according to the press release. They are two grapes that didn’t survive the past two growing seasons because of bad weather. Another grape making a comeback this year is Sangiovese, an Italian varietal.
As a result of this year’s relatively undamaged crop, wineries like Bending Branch Winery in Comfort expect to crush four times the amount of fruit this year compared to previous harvests — something that you can help with throughout this month. Among the Grape Stomp events that are being offered around the Hill Country:
- Dry Comal Creek in New Braunfels is having its last round of grape stomping this weekend, with a few tickets still remaining for Saturday’s pressing event and lunch. If you participate, your name will go on the label of the winery’s 2015 Foot Pressed red table wine. These bottles will be available to purchase in November.
- Hye Meadow Winery in Hye is throwing its grape stomp fun on Sunday and Aug. 16, and the tickets, which you can purchase here, will get you a souvenir T-shirt just waiting for your grape-colored footprints.
- Texas Hills Vineyard in Johnson City is hosting its 15th Annual Grape Stomp on Aug. 15 and 16 and 22 and 23. The actual stomping part is free, although you’ll need to pay for your barbecue lunch and, if you want one, a T-shirt.
- Westcave Cellars on Hamilton Pool Road wants your help squashing the grapes on Aug. 22 at the 5th Annual Grape Stomp. Because all that movement can get tiring, relax under the oak trees afterward with a glass of wine.
- Fall Creek Vineyard’s 26th Annual Grape Stomp and Harvest Festival at the Tow location is always a big to-do, and this year, with celebrity chef demonstrations and lunch, as well as a barrel-tasting with winemaker Sergio Cuadra, is no exception. While the grape stomping on Aug. 22 and 29 is free, pay for one of those side events ahead of time on the website.
- Becker Vineyards in Stonewall is throwing a grape stomp party later in the month than some of the others, but it’ll be no less fun. The free event doesn’t require making reservations.
- Chisholm Trail Winery in Fredericksburg will have the latest grape stomp of all on Sept. 5. Are your legs tired yet? Nah, probably not. Go here for more information.
Although these grape stomps will probably be even more joyous events than in the past because of the Hill Country crop’s quality and quantity so far, the Texas High Plains, the other main region where the state’s grapes are grown, is not out of the woods yet, Duchman Family Winery’s Dave Reilly said in the press release. This region has a protracted growing season for Montepulciano and Aglianico, two of Duchman’s big grapes.
“Our only concern with grapes hanging longer is increased possibility of a hail event in late September or early October,” Reilly said in the release. “We still have a way to go.”
But it’s hard to be worried when you see this year’s grape harvest.