When our neighbour Kristen, the winemaker at Cape Vineyards, asked if we wanted to help pick some grapes for this year’s harvest in Prince Edward County, I accepted her proposition in my best proverbial French. It was 2017, our first year in the County, and we were hungry to get the most out of our new home. We were sampling the local produce at every opportunity, so it wasn’t surprising when our toddler began to prompt us to buy wine as we reviewed our grocery store lists together or begged to “run in the vines” every time we went out for lunch. We were raising him in a new world and part of it was the acceptance that our kid would be part country boy, part wine brat.
The vines at Cape Vineyards are kept carefully, but not mechanically. The grapes seem at home, not transplanted. Kristen is equal parts chilled out and disciplined, but utterly devoid of pretentiousness and her natural wines reflect that same spirit. Lambs arrive in the spring and played freely around the vines throughout the summer while they grow into rambunctious sheep, contributing to the terroir.
It was muddy out after the rainiest summer in decades, but we were dressed for it and we stepped out of the car prepared for action. But our kid wasn’t up to picking—he wanted to play in the mud with the others. So harvest wasn’t in the cards for me that year. I watched the kids and sipped from last year’s yield while the others worked. The sky was purple and the clouds heaved. Fat wasps basked on glorious swollen grapes, drunk and belligerent, sensing that their season of joy was at its close. The vines were lined with secateur wielding friends and neighbours. Despite the gloves, there were a few yelps from the vines, but my better half was raised an English country gent and he knew how to work around the beasties. In the end, I wasn’t missed: buckets were quickly filled, then vats.
The following year was dry and cool and we found ourselves staring down beautiful bunches of cab franc. The wasps had moved on by the time we got out to the vines. Our boy was four this year and excited to help.
He couldn’t handle the shears, but the others were moving fast and he carefully collected bunches that had fallen from the buckets or slipped through their eager hands. He wondered aloud how the winemaker would eat all of these grapes for lunch? He found friends and they celebrated their work with pizza and juice. We had become a real part of a valuable and time-honoured County tradition.
Starting a new life as an adult is the biggest and best adventure, but one we have had to open our hearts to. You can’t just transplant and expect tomorrow in the country to be the same as yesterday in the city. One thing is certain, our boy will grow up a County kid. He will intimately know the sensation of being caked in mud from head to toe after a triumphant puddle jumping session. He will not be shy of country beasties and will understand the greatness of helping his community to flourish. His spirit will be indistinguishable from the joy of running up and down the rows of vines, from the smell of freshly plucked grapes on a crisp breeze and the happy hum of dizzy wasps.