Concord harvest is full of big love (and a little labor)

September 08, 2022

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Follow the gravel road on East First Street in Stover to the warm and welcoming vineyards in Dale “Hollow”. The woody and natural aesthetic of the winery, unique wine names, even down to their font they use, is aligned with brothers Asher and Jesse Dale’s experience during their youth with The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This interest, shared by their mother Beth, was something that united their family and still cherish today through their winery. The escape found in these novels is certainly parallel to the haven found for many at Dale Hollow Winery.

The winery is a very special place for many locals and family friends. There are loyal visitors who come back to enjoy this peaceful space with the help of their Missouri-made wines. When it is time to harvest any of their varietals, these loyal friends show up and hustle, without missing a beat. No matter the weather, or time of day, count on the grapes being picked when this crew is summoned. As Beth Dale said while harvesting, “it truly is a labor of love.” Their loyal community is as tried and true as the Concord grape. They care about the family, as well as the product because they consistently enjoy it year-round. One harvester joked an important follow up job was their “quality control.”

About an acre of Concord was picked on Saturday, September 3, 2022 with the help of about 20 friends, family and local connections. Ages ranged from youth to senior, yet enthusiasm was present across the board. Action at the vine began at 7 A.M., accompanied with a beautiful layer of fog. As the temperature rose throughout the morning, the fog’s moisture settled on the berry colored grapes. Colors ranged from candied purple to a few greens in between. Harvest was imperative as many of these clusters had ripened and began to naturally fall from the vines. There is always a race to harvest Concord as it ripens, especially when birds can easily beat the hand harvesters to their vines.

Post-harvest, the Brix (sugar content) was lower than expected due to an unexpected rain the day prior. The average number was 13, when their aim was 15-17. However, this can be fixed as most concord wines never reach the ideal number of Brix without being devastated by pests and birds. Concord is an easy-going varietal that is hardy and rings true to the characteristics of vitis labrusca (or native American grapes.)

The harvest crew leaves the vineyard and winery with full bellies and full hearts, with the help of Katy’s breakfast. Although it is hard work, these volunteers are crucial to the success of this local winery. Several harvesters noted it was their first year helping, while many others have been at every varietal harvest since the beginning. Every level of experience is welcome and appreciated in the “Hollow” vineyards.

All of Missouri wines produced across the state are family owned operations. Families may have expanded to include community members, and those working in the wine and grape industry, but all hands circle back to the integrity and care taken to produce world-class grapes and wine.

Welcome the experience of harvest this fall by keeping an eye out while enjoying wine country, or even volunteering to help harvest at your local winery. Share your experiences with us on social media by tagging #missouriwine and @missouriwine.