This past weekend, myself and a bunch of the other dietetic interns went to Walpole Mountain View Winery in Walpole, NH to help harvest grapes. Random, I know. It all started about 3-4 weeks ago, when I was running along Court Street and saw a small sign for the winery at a traffic circle. I took a picture of the sign so I could look it up later once I got home. After perusing the website a bit, I found that not only did they have a tasting room, but they also have harvesting dates that community members can sign up for. Luckily, Nikki was coming to visit me the following weekend (YAY), so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out this place and try some wine. Unfortunately, we decided to follow a GPS to get there, which brought us to a dirt road/driveway and up to someone’s private property where we then proceeded to turn around (while avoiding running over their barking dog) and get directions from a woman who lived there (who came out of her house with her baby). Meanwhile, the GPS was still insisting the winery was there, on this woman’s private property…it was not. Very reminiscent of The Office episode when Michael drives his car into a pond because he insists on following the technology (watch here for a laugh). Anyway, eventually, after driving many more miles (some in the wrong direction), suffering from poor cell signal, failing GPS, and dropped calls to the winery, we finally made it. Nikki and I were given lists of the wines available to try and got to check off whichever 6 we wanted, while cross referencing from a detailed description of each. We decided to try a variety of dry versus sweet, red versus white and rose, etc. We also decided to get some Cabot cheese and crackers (butterfly crackers, of course) to have with our wine. For the very reasonable $5, we also got to take home a wine glass as a souvenir (stemmed or unstemmed).
While they were pouring our samples, we watched a 5 minute video in another room about the winemaking process and this winery specifically.
We then continued into the tasting room, beautifully decorated and with plenty of glass windows so visitors can drink while looking out at the scenic NH mountain view.
We sampled our wines one by one, swirling them around in our new wine glasses and eating bites of cheese and crackers in between.
Nikki was the expert, as she reminisced about taking a 9am wine-tasting class abroad in Sydney two years ago. I, on the other hand, knew nothing about how to properly taste wine.
We didn’t end up loving any of the wines enough to want to buy a whole bottle to take home, but sampling was fun and for $5, it was a very affordable and enjoyable afternoon activity. Note: we ate the entire block of Cabot cheese and sleeve of butterfly crackers #noshame.
In addition to offering taste tests of their wine, I also found, while perusing the winery’s website, that they have harvesting days on weekends throughout October and are always in need of community members to volunteer and help harvest grapes. After this initial visit with Nikki 3 weeks ago, I reached out to the other dietetic interns, figuring others besides myself would probably be interested in learning about grapes and winemaking (it contains antioxidants, right?!).
As expected, the majority of the girls (I can say that because, per usual, there’s a lack of males in this dietetic internship program. And by lack of, I mean zero) were interested. I got everyone’s availability and coordinated with Virginia (the winery owner) a date that worked best for everyone. So last Saturday 8 of us woke up (way too early for a weekend but oh well) and drove 30 minutes to the winery (once again, despite giving clear instructions to others who were driving, I still messed up the directions myself and got semi-lost in a no-cell area). When we got there, Virginia had set up a breakfast area for all of us to fuel up before we headed out to start picking the grapes. While drinking some coffee, we were handed tasting sheets (the same ones I got when I had come with Nikki a few weeks prior) to check off the 6 wines we would later want to try. We were given the description sheets so everyone could read what flavors they have, what they pair well with, their alcohol and residual sugar content, etc. Once we’d made those hard decisions (this time I stuck to just the white wines–my favorites), we then went around the room and did some introductions (there were about 20 people helping overall), and then we were given a bucket to sit on, a pad for the bucket, gloves, some sort of grape picking tool, and an old coffee container that was used to collect the ‘ugly grapes’ aka the ones that weren’t quite ripe yet, may have had mold, had dried up, etc.
There was also a reporter from the New Hampshire Chronicle doing a story on the winery, so if and when the video is released, (assuming I sound like a literate human being and it’s not embarrassing) I’ll have to find it and post it (my moment of fame!).
Lucky for us, grape harvesting isn’t actually very physically demanding. Most of the time we were able to sit on our buckets and pick the grapes, occasionally standing to get the harder-to-reach bunches (#shortpeopleproblems). The tool she gave us to use (wish I could remember the name) easily cut right through the vines. Thankfully, it’s late enough in the season now that there aren’t many bees, so I didn’t have to constantly be worried about them attacking us. On the downside, though, it turned out to be a much chillier morning than we had anticipated. According to the meteorologists (why do we ever trust them?!), it was going to be relatively warm and sunny. Yet the clouds remained and the temperature didn’t seem to increase over 45ish until probably noon when finally the sun started to peek out of the clouds. However, along with that came some strong wind, made even stronger because we were on a mountain. Despite the weather, it was a pretty enjoyable morning. While picking, you have lots of time to chat with the people sitting next to or opposite you, and because you are constantly moving around (play leap-frog, if you will), you get to talk to a lot of different people which made it even more fun and made the time pass by pretty quickly actually. It was also great to catch up with the different interns after we’d all had our first week at our different rotations.
By about 12:45, we had harvested 3 very long rows of grapes and it was time to head back inside to get lunch. They had prepared several soups for us (just what we needed, since we’d been so unprepared for the cooler weather), along with fresh bread, cheese, cookies, and salad. And, of course, we got our wine samples. We sat at a round bench outside (because it was finally sunny) and attempted to eat and drink while the wind tried to knock over our new wine glasses (rude!).
Before leaving the winery, we also had the opportunity to stomp some grapes with our bare feet–definitely a bucket list item checked off. We first had to hose our feet down, then stepped into one warm water bucket (may have contained something else but I don’t remember), then stepped into the grape bucket which was very cold and slimy but so much fun. We ended up fitting 5 of us in it at once (quality bonding right there). Then you step in another warm water bucket on your way out of the grapes before heading back to the hose to rinse off. It was a really fun way to end the morning.
So now that I’ve been to the Walpole Mountain View Winery twice within the last month, it’s time to try some others! While there, I picked up a brochure of all the NH wineries, so stay tuned… #livefreeordie