On the Road: Muscadine Harvest

| September 16, 2015 | 2 Replies

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest, second in a series.

I have a friend who had wanted for years to try his hand at winemaking. He planted a vineyard and made some wine. When that turned out well, he quit his job and started growing grapes and making wine full-time. That was a few years ago and today there is an active wine tour in Middle Tennessee and his Grinder’s Switch Winery is a favorite stop on the tour.

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - Crusher

Joey Chessor raking the muscadine harvest into the crusher

I was invited out today (well, I kind of invited myself) for the muscadine harvest and grape crushing, which was something I’d never seen, but, what makes this story interesting is my friend’s passion was contagious. His whole family caught the bug and they work collectively for a common goal.

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - MIck with lift

Mick, Joey’s son, operates the lift

Vitis rotundifolia, or muscadine, is a grapevine species native to the southeastern and south-central United States from Florida to Delaware, west to eastern Texas and Oklahoma. It has been extensively cultivated since the 16th century. – Wikipedia

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - ton of grapes

Each bin holds about a ton of grapes

Muscadine is very sweet and the wine made from them appeals to the Southern palate. And since they are native to the area, they are less trouble to grow than other wine grapes. Joey encouraged his brother, Carson, who had a acre of flat sunny land beside his house to grow muscadine. “All I was doing was mowing it,” he told me.

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - Carson Chessor

Carson, Joey’s brother, who planted his yard in muscadine grapes

The vines are five years-old and the first harvest produced a ton of grapes. Today they harvested 2 1/2 tons in about five hours which will make about 2000 bottles of wine.

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - one acre of vines

One acre planted in muscadine vines

Muscadine don’t grow in perfect clusters like other wine grapes. They have to be knocked off the vines and collected. Cheerful banter could be heard among the grape gatherers intermingled with the whacks on the vines.

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - Cheerful helpers

Cheerful helpers make fast work of muscadine harvest

Birds leave muscadine alone because of the tough skin. In fact, they aren’t that great for snacking. You pop one into your mouth, bite down, “swallow the juice and spit out the rest,” Carson instructed. I had skipped breakfast for this early call, so I was happy to chomp down on a few!

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - grapes

Carlos is the most common white muscadine

There was a time when family worked together on the farm and raised food collectively to sustain themselves and hopefully turn a profit. Today that tradition is alive and well at the Grinder’s Switch Winery and vineyard, which opened a tasting room in North Nashville in April. ~

Files from the Road: Muscadine Harvest - muscadine grape

Muscadine grape

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know. This series is about my musings on the road, interviews with family farmers, and whatever strikes my fancy. Thanks for reading, please subscribe if you haven’t, and share with a friend. Thanks! – Kaye

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Category: Community, Fruit

Comments (2)

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  1. Marcus Toole says:

    Great article. The only thing I would add is that there are varieties of muscadines out that are great for fresh eating. The ones I have in mind are Supreme, Darlene, Sweet Ginny, Big Red, Black Beauty, Lane and Late Fry. There are others but these are the ones that make great table berries. Their skins are not as leathery or as astringent as some of the varieties bread for juice, jam and wins such as Carlos, Nobel and the like. God bless.


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