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Harvest Speeds to a Close at Keuka Spring Vineyards

A view of Keuka Lake from Keuka Spring Vineyards
Kelly Walker
Finger Lakes Public Radio

My latest stop visiting Finger Lakes winemakers during harvest 2017 was with August Deimel at Keuka Spring Vineyards. On visits to other winemakers, we’ve heard how the wet summer and unexpectedly warm September delayed harvest. But, not only did the fruit come in late, it came in fast.

“We worked literally morning, noon, and night, four and five years straight and we brought in half of the grapes that we expect to bring in a single five day stretch that would normally extend out for maybe three, three-and-a-half weeks.”

Such a schedule can take a toll on a winery staff in every way, so they find relief when and where they can.

“We had some Merlot that for relatively arcane reasons was coming into our cellar at 9:45 at night. So, I had my assistant winemaker Becky do the day shift and then I came in at 8 o’clock at night to process the Merlot and get that going. Then, at about 4:00 a.m. I set up my hammock between a couple of my tanks and took a little snooze before starting again at 7:00 a.m.”

For all the stress and the late nights and early mornings that can often merge one into another, I have noticed an energy around wineries during harvest. Everybody is working very, very hard, but spirits are high and I asked Deimel about that.

“I started as a head winemaker at the age of 30, which means that if I have the length of career I expect to, I get to make wine thirty-five times in my lifetime, maybe forty if I’m lucky. That’s not a lot of times. If you consider a lawyer. How many cases will they have? If you consider a doctor. How many patients will they see? I get to do my job thirty-five times. That’s it. So, every time is a celebration because it’s one of the very few times we get to do what we love to do.”

Kelly Walker started his public radio career at WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1985 and has spent some time in just about every role public broadcasting has to offer. He has spent substantive time in programming and development at KWMU in St. Louis, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, and Troy Public Radio in Alabama before his arrival in Geneva, New York. In addition, his work has been heard on many other public radio stations as well as NPR. Kelly also produces The Sundilla Radio Hour, which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on Finger Lakes Public Radio and is distributed to public radio stations all over the country through PRX.
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