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Illinois grape harvest season underway

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Grape Harvest Pic 2

MAKANDA (WSIL) -- Local vineyards have entered a busy time of year. It's the traditional grape harvesting season in Illinois.

Harvest season means Illinois vintners have been hard at work beginning the wine making process.

"We typically harvest about a half acre in four hours or so. Once the grapes are picked, we either crush and press them immediately or put them in the cooler overnight," says Kaleb Wilson, Vineyard Manager.

Karen Hand, head winemaker at Blue Sky Vineyard, says many factors come into play before harvesting. "Basically, we pick the grapes when they're ripe. For them to be ripe the sugar has to be right, the acid has to be right, and the PH and taste has to be right."

Once off the vine, the grapes are sent be crushed and pressed.

"We've harvested our last white grapes. It's our Chardonnay, which we are crushing and pressing. We like to press right after they come off the vine because that's when they're at their highest quality," explains Hand.

Wilson says they had to make some schedule adjustments, thanks to this year's rain. "The vignole which we're standing in right now, we picked probably about five to six days earlier than what we typically would. We were getting quite a bit of bitter rot, sour rot, so we had to pull the trigger slightly early."

"We didn't get quite the fruit flavors we were looking for, but we've been doing this for fifteen years and we haven't had a perfect year yet," says Hand.

Wilson says within the next 7 to 10 days they will begin harvesting the red varietals. He's just hoping the weather cooperates. "Hot. Sunny. Of course it's not, we're probably past the point of having warmer weather, but as long as it's dry, low humidity and sunny we should be perfect."

Hand says after crushing and pressing the grapes the next step is fermentation. Hand says a dry white wines take about 6 months from start to finish and dry reds take 2 to 3 years.

For more information on Blue Sky Vineyard, click here.

Jacie Brianne

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