Missoula’s Fall Grape Harvest with 406dad
by Tom Kerr / 406dad.com
One of the great community events in Missoula every fall is the annual grape harvest at the city’s only estate winery and vineyard. Ten Spoon Winery & Vineyard located in the north Rattlesnake area has been producing wines since 2003 and offers a wide selection of red and white varietals. A large number of the wines are estate wines, meaning they grow on site at their own 12-acre vineyard.
The fall harvest takes place over a long weekend, usually in October, when the grapes are the perfect time to pick. A week early or a week later can make an enormous difference in the quality of the wine, particularly considering the unpredictable and variable Montana weather. Without a deep pool of day laborers in Western Montana, the owners ask friends, neighbors and others throughout the Missoula community to come together over 3 days and help pick the grapes. The winery provides food, wine, and snacks in exchange for this often laborious work.
The kids and I helped out for three different harvest years and it was a rewarding experience and often hard work. Each volunteer grabs scissors, clippers, or snippers and begins cutting off grape bunches and places them in a nearby plastic crate. A competition immediately ensued among the boys to see who cut the largest bunch. Vineyard employees coordinate the rows to be cut and distribution of the crates to be transported to the wine making equipment on site.
Not being used to hard physical labor, the kids would usually make it for about an hour of solid work, with frequent interruptions for popcorn, sodas and eventually barbecue sandwiches. After Wyatt complained his back was starting to hurt, a nearby volunteer quipped, “that’s why you need to study hard at school”. Although I think the joke went over his head somewhat.
Over the years, it’s become a wonderful community-based family friendly tradition in Missoula. For those adult volunteers, drinking a glass of wine that they helped pick a year or two earlier can be a memorable experience. And if the parent’s goal is to get the kids outside, off their phones, and to experience hard work – it can’t be beat.
The 2020 fall harvest at Ten Spoon Winery takes place October 9th-11th, 2020. For more information go here. Bring cold-weather clothing just in case and if possible, bring your own scissors or snippers.