Guest post written for Minnesota Grown’s Pick of the Month
A brief lesson in equinox nomenclature
The autumn equinox passed on September 22, enveloping the state in the transition from warm to cold weather. The term “autumn” itself, from the latin word “autu” meaning “passing of the year”, also signals the end of our growing season.
For me, this time of year invokes classic images of the celebration of harvest — a cornucopia overflowing with fruits of this season’s labor. Take a stroll through the Minneapolis Institute of Art, you’ll see what I mean. An art museum, effectively the “Instagram” of history, walls of paintings paying homage to celebrations of food, feasts, and farm labor.
While autumn may be among the shortest of seasons, it is a time of year deeply celebrated by many heritages from the Chinese Moon Festival to the Jewish Sukkot, Thanksgiving (in US and Canada) and more; all with a prevailing theme of celebrating the earth’s bounty.
Fall-ing away from homestead civilization
The term “fall” has become the commonly adopted term for this season in today’s culture, as people moved away from farms and into cities where “fall” literally just refers to the leaves falling from trees. The summation of autumn simplified as leaves dropping to the ground reflects a sense of melancholy — the symbolic loss of summer, a far cry from the bountiful harvest celebrations of the past.
Putting the “fest” in harvest festivals
Oktoberfest-goers, make room on your calendars: Minnesota vintners are celebrating all the hours spent tending to their vineyards — which is a lot of hours, and they’re ready to party. From German-style wine celebrations to themed costumed grape stomps and costumed festivals, get out and join in the celebration of the autumn season! We’ve got some of the fun listed for you here.
Gratitude starts with feeling your own thankfulness — put it in action
During harvest season, many wineries across the state are inviting you help them harvest grapes. The question I’ve received from many — why would I go work on someone’s farm, for free?
I stopped out at a vineyard to lend a hand because for me, the answer is obvious: it makes a difference to someone. And hey, I like spending a crisp morning with sun rising over the vines, in good company of like-minded volunteers. The atmosphere creates a wonderful sense of community.
According to Nan Bailly, of Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings, they have a “loyal crew of friends, family and customers who come out every year” to harvest, to folks that just thought it sounded like a good time.
Missy Parks who helped on harvest crew at Flower Valley Vineyard in Red Wing just moved to Minnesota from Vermont this September. After seeing a vineyard in a magazine she was compelled to help with harvest, since working downtown she “looks for opportunities to get out of the city on the weekends”. Being an experienced grape picker is not a prerequisite, either: “I’ve picked blueberries before in Vermont!” Parks exclaimed, “but that’s about it”.
The grapes I picked (along with several thousand pounds picked in total) made it all the way from the vine through crusher, and were fermenting by the time my head hit the pillow that night. I can’t wait to stop back next season for a glass of Marechal Foch — after all, I had a hand in it. Literally!
This season’s harvest won’t be bottled for purchase until next summer, check with each vineyard for details,