Viticulture instructor, Lucas McIntire, is shown in the Kirkwood Community College vineyard before grape harvest in mid-August. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
CEDAR RAPIDS – Who can blame Kirkwood Viticulture Instructor, Lucas McIntire, for being in what I can only describe as a state of grape Nirvana.
At our most recent class, the weather was Iowa-perfect and early grapes were good to go, allowing us to not only harvest the fruit of the vineyard, but to take the next step and make wine.
A piece of grape is smudged on a refractometer before testing the sugar level. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Tasting the grapes has been one of the high points in our eight-month course so far. Each variety ripens at different times, but the Frontenac Blanc, in mid-August, was already ready. Even having a harvest of this grape was remarkable, as it was just planted in 2012, making the wine made from these grapes undoubtedly the first in Iowa.
A grape fork is a handy device used to harvest grapes. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
We used grape refractometers to test the sugar percentages in the grapes, using a small piece of fruit smudged on the hand-held device and holding it to the light. The Frontenac Blanc was already at 25 percent, while other varieties needed more time to ripen.
Another handy device is a grape fork, used to easily cut grape clusters from the vine. We harvested just over 60 pounds of Frontenac Blanc, enough to make a small batch of wine. The wine-making is beyond my expertise, but definitely one where Lucas excels. Find related articles here and see images of the process below:
A refractometer is held to the sunlight to check the sugar level in the grapes. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Part of the Kirkwood Community College viticulture class show the harvest of Frontenac Blanc grapes in August 2013, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Frontenac Blanc grapes are poured into a field presser at Kirkwood Community College. (Photo/Cindy Hadish)
Rice hulls are added to the grapes as a pressing aide. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Classmates work the grape press at Kirkwood Community College as part of the wine-making process. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Grape juice flows from the press through a strainer to remove rice hulls and grape skins. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Viticulture instructor, Lucas McIntire, handles the chemistry portion of wine-making during class at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
The finished product, likely the first Iowa-grown Frontenac Blanc wine, poured at Kirkwood Community College in August 2013. (photo/Cindy Hadish)