Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Baby's First Harvest: Kramer Vineyards' Oenocamp

me, slacking off to take a picture.

So, the Handsome Man sent me out to Yamhill County for some manual labor – it’s harvest season in wine country! Having been a contributor to the Anthem through two harvest seasons, it’s kind of a wonder it took me this long to get a taste of the manual labor that goes into creating the adult grape juice I’ve come to know and love. Lured by the prospect of day-drinking through some sparkling wines, my third harvest at the Anthem landed me at Kramer Vineyards with an intimate group of other enthusiasts for the Kramer “Oenocamp,” and boy do I have a new perspective. Truthfully, I was excited to finally get my hands dirty. I also feel as though one shouldn’t be allowed to consume wine before assisting with at least one harvest. The work is exhausting, time-consuming, challenging, sticky, and, did I say exhausting?

As I arrived, the bees, which we had been warned about, were already zipping around the crush pad, likely driven mad by the sticky sweetness in the air that seems to hang permanent during this time of the year. After a quick Harvest 101, we were paired up with long-time harvest worker Margarita, who was all too kind about my obviously newbie grape-snipping skills, and the inevitable slowing of her usual pace as she whipped her way down and around me along each row of vines, filling to the top at least eight buckets to my one. We are picking Pinot Gris, and the grapes are a beautiful dusty purple color, juicy and ripe as I watch the clusters fall into the bucket with each snip of my clippers.

Carmine on the vine.
Harvest is well under way for our host and winemaker Kim Kramer, who is notably giddy about the work she does with Kramer Vineyards’ wine, primarily the sparkling wine program. Kim is the daughter of owners Keith and Trudy Kramer, who began planting their vineyard in 1984 with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Müller-Thurgau. Their estate vineyards have since grown to produce Muscat, Pinot Meunier, Grüner Veltliner, and Carmine, a multi-colored cluster of fruit with strong floral flavors. Fun fact: even with only acre of Carmine planted, the Kramers have been cited as one of the largest growers of this strange and tasty varietal.

Having been raised at the vineyard, Kim admits she was initially daunted by the idea of joining the family business, knowing how exhausting and difficult the work can be. Despite her concerns, she soon found herself in the Chemeketa wine program and working at St. Innocent Winery, eventually drawn to the winemaking process at St. Innocent with her first attempt at sparkling wine in 2006. Kim joined Kramer Vineyards in 2008 with some ideas about where to take Kramer wines, to which Keith and Tammy were quite receptive. In 2010, Kim worked harvest in Burgundy and returned with a certainty about where to take the Kramer Pinot Noir – she explains, “my goal is to promote healthy, clean fermentations, and in doing so, we’re able to produce wines that fully express the vineyard my parents worked so hard to establish,” citing their estate vineyard status as key in the creation of each wine.

bandages - (not me! I swear)
Even with my limited involvement, I can attest that the work is, in fact, extremely difficult. Hunched over for hours at a time snipping away at each individual cluster of fruit, trying not to accidently catch your own appendages or get stung by the swarming bees, and that’s just the beginning. By the time our group had finished, we had collectively filled eight bins of grapes, with minimal injuries(ish). We rinsed, sorted them and helped Kim cram four bins into the press, and by “we” I mean I stood about 30 feet back because, I mean… the bees, guys. So many bees…


2013 will be Kim’s fifth vintage of sparkling wine, and as she talks us through the winemaking process, her excitement and passion for her work bubbles over us like the sparkling wines she produces, which makes consuming it all the more enjoyable. The 2011, which she notes seems to best represent the Kramer vineyards, is delightfully crisp and refreshing, especially after a long morning of harvest work. 

For more information about how to get involved in harvest for the 2014 vintage, which I highly recommend, reach out to your local wineries for details about harvest events and volunteer opportunities. 


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