Looking out over the rows of grapes in the Pelee Island Winery vineyard on  Pelee Island during harvest.
Vineyards at harvest on Pelee Island.

Harvest! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s begun for 2020 with this last week being the first for a load of grapes to arrive on the crush pad here at our Pelee Island Winery facility in Kingsville. Yes, Kingsville.

Although we have 700+ acres of vineyards, including organic, on Pelee Island, the wine making process takes place in Kingsville. This is one of the factors that makes our harvest unique.

From Island to Mainland

Getting grapes from an island in the middle of the great Lake Erie to the mainland requires a few extra considerations.

We harvest our grapes in the evening and late night so that they can be transported fresh on the first morning boat off the island at 7 or 8 am.

Our picker also de-stems the grapes while picking. This means we can get more grapes into the bins creating denser loads. Not only does this simple act offer more room for grapes, it also enables for 2 sustainable practices to occur.

Sustainable Harvest Practices

Alfalfa and a natural carpet help keep the grapes growing to their best and they are ready for harvest.
Alfalfa and the natural carpet between the vines.

1. By being able to carry more grapes per load, we cut down on the amount of loads and thus our carbon footprint during transportation.

2. The stems remain in the vineyard and become organic matter returning back to the benefit the growing cycle and future crops.

2020 Weather

It’s been a dry, hot summer this year. How does that effect the grapes? Our Viticulturist, Bruno Friesen, uses the sustainable practice of not tilling in between the rows in the vineyard. Instead, he chooses a “natural carpet”. This mix of grass and plants such as alfalfa create a strong, underground ecosystem for healthy roots and more resilient vines. It helps keep nutrients and moisture at healthy levels.

This latest bought of warm days with cool nights is an asset during harvest. At a time when the grapes are near their highest sugar concentration, this weather pattern is an important and beneficial partner in harvest.

Farm to Science

Chardonnay grapes arriving on the crush pad at Pelee Island Winery for the beginning of the wine making process in Kingsville, Ontario.
Chardonnay grapes arriving at the crush pad in Kingsville in grape wagons from Pelee Island

Once the grapes have been harvested, they show up on the crush pad at the winery facility. This is where they begin their journey to wine and where farm meets science.

When the grapes first come in from harvest, they are double checked for their brix (measurement of the sugar content of grapes) and volatile acids.

This measurement of brix is an important component for the winemaker in deciding how the grapes will be used. Lower sugars make great sparkling wines and higher sugar grapes will be watched for use in vintages.

Angela Mulcaster is our Laboratory Technologist at Pelee Island Winery. It is part of her job to check the tanks every day during the fermentation process. Yes, every tank, every day. At the height of harvest, she will often have “red day” and “white day” to manage this on top of the loads of incoming grapes. She keeps an eye on the sugar, alcohol and overall acids developing.

“A good acidity creates that tartness we love in wine such as in Pinot Grigio,” she says.

After the first fermentation, red wines and some whites move on to malolactic fermentation. This is where wines acquire their creamy or buttery mouth feel.

“I love the chemistry of it all,” states Angela. “It’s not just juice or alcohol. Seeing things on the molecular level, you see things happening. You realize that wine is alive.”

Indeed it is and we can’t wait to see what the 2020 harvest will bring to life so that we can share it with you!


Core line of Pelee Island Winery VQA Ontario red wine and white wines on Pelee Island.
Our core line VQA Ontario wines. Shop here.

Pssttt… Don’t forget while you’re here to sign up for our Birthday Club and receive a $20 Gift Voucher for your Birthday!