Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another Christmas: Harvest at Basignani

Dust covers some more than 100-year-old bottles in the winery (right); the harvesters sit down to food and plenty of drink, including wine, beer and water; the table laden with homemade goods.
I can remember going to pick down at Basignani Vineyards five or six years ago and we'd pretty much have the vines to ourselves; maybe eight to 10 of us would show up as volunteers to pick and then we'd retire to the Basignani patio for lunch.

Those were the days. This morning's harvest, which lasted fewer than three hours because of the turnout, drew 50 people. Fifty, all thanks to word of mouth and the Internet. And they capped it at 50, as they they did next week's pick, which is expected to be the final one for this season. We filled the lugs with Chancellor and Chambourcin, working under a clear sky and amid more bees than I've seen in that vineyard in my last couple of harvests. They didn't really bother anyone, but their buzzing and the conversation of all those people served as the audio backdrop.

Once we were finished, Lynne prepared the kind of lunch one happily travels 40 minutes to sample: lasagne, sweet and hot sausage, lunch meat, bread, peppers, olives and I believe an apple/nut cake for dessert. Finally had a chance to taste (OK, more than taste, since I had several glasses) the 2007 Piccolo, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious, and priced right at $11.75; this was an excellent companion with what we had for lunch. It's neither overly oaked high in alcohol content (12.6 percent), so you could take this along to your favorite BYOB and try anything from burgers to pizza to pasta. And that 2007 vintage is the key. You see any '07 vintages in Maryland or Pennsylvania, buy them. That was this decade's best vintage across the region and one worth stocking up on.

As for this vintage, it might be the toughest to tame since 2003 or '04 because of all the rain. Someone I talked to at the winery noted most of those 2004 wines came up short, except for the Cabernet Sauvignon. Maybe that's what's ahead here, but I'm getting ahead of things. Still plenty of work to be done in the fields yet.