by Kristina Santone

Norman Hardie is the kind of man you want to do nice things for.  He’s fun, he’s talented, he’s smart…oh yeah, and he makes great wine! For the past few years, Hardie has invited friends, family and local wine-lovers to come to his vineyard and take part in the fall grape harvest. It’s a brilliant idea and one that I’m sure will spread to other wineries.

This year was the first I heard about it, so I dragged my boyfriend out of bed at 6am on a Sunday to make the drive to Prince Edward County and take part.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how the day went. People were there from all over just to take part in a truly unique (for the public anyway) event that really fostered a sense of community. I met ladies who worked at the LCBO, saw families from the area looking for an active day out, talked to one man who had done it every year (and made sure I knew it), and of course endured some hipsters who made an appearance, telling tales from past years while eating more grapes than picking, but I digress…

Our day’s work started at 9:30am and the inner (and very keen) nerd in me came out. I had my coffee in the car, my rubber boots on, along with my hoodie and hat; I was ready! There was still dew on the grapes at the start of the day, so we were instructed how to roll up netting, which we did for an hour while the conditions became suitable for plucking.  After mastering net rolling, I was convinced that the day was going to be a piece of cake…not so much. We were directed over across the street to another vineyard (a friend of Norm’s) and were told to start picking the Chardonnay grapes there. After four and a half hours of grueling (perhaps I’m being slightly dramatic…but only slightly) hard work, I discovered a newfound admiration and respect for farmers everywhere. The work was hard, but the reward followed quickly, and was much sweeter than even the grapes themselves.

As we walked back to Hardie’s vineyard, a delicious smell filled the air. It was our payment for getting our hands dirty (and sticky with grape juice).  There was a roasted pig, roasted stuffed chicken and all the fresh, seasonal vegetables you could name. As lunch was being served and the wine was flowing very freely, I sat on a rock eating my huge plate of food and I couldn’t help but think that Norman Hardie was a smart man for putting this all together; the kind of man that total strangers want to do nice things for. He’s the kind of man that knows how to throw a seriously terrific harvest party…even if it means we all have to do a little work first.

Kristina Santone is the Assistant Editor of TAPS, Canada’s beer magazineThanks to her italian mother, she loves all things foodand is an avid vintage cookbook collector.