Harvest time with Mellisoni
12:30 A.M. a late drive through the pass Britney and I arrived in Lake Chelan. Tired and exhausted we checked into our room and waited for morning. Unfortunately, we woke up to a 6:00 a.m. alarm as I was under the impression we would begin clipping grapes at 7:00. We arrived at Rob and Donnas, Mellisoni Vineyards at 7 a.m. sharp only to find out that they weren’t going to start until 8 am. Six hours of sleep and on an empty stomach, the misfortune of not checking my FaceBook was reiterated to us as Rob said, “We updated our start time on face book.” As hard as it was then to believe this would be the start to our trip I was actually very happy to be on the Mellisoni Vineyard overlooking Lake Chelan once again.
We began with an early morning breakfast as a few more volunteers arrived to help. I enjoyed the keish accompanied by a glass of Gewürztraminer; though wine not being my typical choice of beverage at 8 a.m. in the morning. Rob and Donna handed out a pair of clippers to everyone prior to our hike up the steep slopes where the vines rested. Rob showed me how and where to cut the vines; selecting a rich batch of grapes was important and making sure to remain cautious was also significant as we were told cutting fingers could be easy. Exciting! I began the process cutting bundle after bundle. Each row had a group of people to cover ground at a faster rate.
The grapes were a deep vivid purple and their color intensified the breathtaking view of Lake Chelan. While cutting the grapes I ran into a lot of spiders, but I did my best to ignore such terrible distractions. I ate a few grapes. The delicate, rich, supple flavor of juice from the grapes filled my mouth and I was reminded of the first taste of these delicious grown grapes. After we were done with the picking, clipping, (and the eating of the grapes), everyone dumped their grape filled buckets into a giant bin. The entire process was incredibly humbling and the valuable knowledge I gained has given me great appreciation and respect for Rob and Donna’s dedication to their vineyard. I couldn’t forget how much work harvesting is and it wasn’t over just yet. Now that the picking process was completed we were off to another vineyard for the pressing of the grapes.
Next was our drive to Tildio Winery to begin the crushing or “pressing” process. We met Rob at Tildio and the bin was removed from the truck with a fork lift and dumped into a silver contraption which would press the grapes flat until every ounce of juice had been squeezed out. This process takes a little over an hour to complete; not as fast as I presumed. After the grapes are pressed the juice runs down a pipe and into a tank where it will sit for a short amount of time which is then followed by the process of aging and bottling of the wine. We were excited to contribute and take part in the harvesting activities while learning more about the vineyard and its wine we would be representing. The day only continued and we decided that we would take a break and head into town for brunch.
A jump and skip away we were in downtown Chelan. We found a small grocery store with a restaurant inside. The menu featured crepes, a favorite of mine! Crepes in my opinion are the perfect meal; bordering similarities to a pancake however an entirely different creation. The additions or toppings if you will, is my favorite part of a crepe and done right leaves me more than satisfied. After brunch was a short drive to Tsillan Cellars, a rather big vineyard near the shores of Lake Chelan. Award winning wines were on sale so we decided it was necessary to make a quick stop. Plus saying hello to Tsillan Cellars owners, Bob and Ken was also a must. We purchased a case of twelve bottles; A variety which included a Gewürztraminer, Dry Gewürztraminer, a Riesling, and their Pinot Grigio. We relaxed and enjoyed a few glasses of wine. A truly perfect afternoon after a thrilling activity filled morning.
Later that evening it was time to make our way back to Mellisoni again. We made a bon fire, ate gumbo, and of course enjoyed more wine together. I shared a bottle of Malbec from La Guarda Vineyards in Argentina. It is one of my favorites from this vineyard and loved the compliments I received on the wine. As time passed we saw the moon make its way over the lake revealing its blissful reflection on the water. The night continued with lots of sharing; great conversation, laughter, stories. Rob and Donna were very generous and shared with us multiple bottles of wine from their collection: syrah, Pinot Grigio, and the 45 degree blend. We thoroughly enjoyed them all.
As the night ended I thought to myself how much I loved the bond that had been created that day over a true passion we all shared for wine. Harvest was a great experience and just one of many more I hope to experience.
Taste Lake Chelan