Lexington Valley Vineyard harvests grapes nearly lost in April

Ryan Hales harvests grapes from the Marechal Foch vines.
Ryan Hales harvests grapes from the Marechal Foch vines.(WDBJ7 Photo)
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:29 PM EDT
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - “You know, there were some dead leaves,” said Lexington Valley VIneyard’s Ryan Hale, ”but for the most part everything survived, and I think in no small part to we did.”

As he works in the vineyard in the heat, picking lush clumps of grapes, he might find what he did in April ironic. A cold snap nearly killed the crop, forcing him to spend a sleepless night with smudge pots to keep the vines warm.

But today it’s clear the effort was worth it.

“It looks like right now we’re going to have probably one of the best harvests we’ve had in quite some time,” Hale said.

But, thanks to COVID, the harvest has become a lonely one. Where normally friends and relatives would gather to help, the current surge has made him cautious.

“It’s been more difficult this year to get people to volunteer to be shoulder to shoulder picking grapes in the field,” Hale said. “So, you know, I think for us we’ve just decided we’ll do it ourselves.”

Although people aren’t the only one’s going for the grapes. A new deer fence surrounds the vineyard and a fright kite flies overhead to scare birds, but even bees from the vineyard’s own hive want a taste.

“The Marechal Foch is one of our more popular varietals here,” Hale explained. “It produces this really, really delicate nice red wine that’s very similar to Pinot Noir or a Cru Beaujolais.”

And, he thinks, in the end, this is going to be a good year.

“If you can think about that in a couple years as you’re looking back at a couple bottles,” he said, “remember 2021 was a great year, and the wines really should reflect that.”

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