Grape harvest under way at Nassau Valley Vineyards

The Chardonnay grapes are fat with juice. BY DENNIS FORNEY
August 31, 2011


In this morning's first light, men unloaded plastic crates at the end of grape rows at Nassau Valley Vineyards.  The 2011 harvest has begun.

"This is our 20th harvest," said Bob Raley, one of the owners of the vineyard. 'We're starting with the Chardonnay grapes.  This may be the best harvest we've ever had."

The dry summer has made for a very high sugar content in the grapes.

For the past several weeks, the vineyard has sounded like Wild Kingdom under assault.  Trying to combat the birds that see the grapes as a fine daily meal, Raley and his team have set up propane-fired guns to scare them off as well as tree-mounted recordings of bird distress calls - like the calls of birds in their nests being attacked by snakes.  Colorful balloons with big owl eyes have also been deployed as a deterrent. All of it has been only semi-successful.  Sweet ripe grapes are a powerful temptation.

"We may have to go to some sort of netting," said Raley with a scowl.  "Expensive."

Nassau Valley wines continue to win awards, the most recent being a couple of first places at the annual, prestigious Indiana State Fair.