Grace Hill Winery invites volunteers to help with harvest

Fifteen to 20 tons. That’s the expected size of this year’s grape harvest at Grace Hill Winery, Jeff Sollo said Monday.

“It’s hard to pick all those grapes ourselves,” said Sollo, the winery’s marketing manager and event coordinator.

Which is why Sollo said Grace Hill is inviting volunteers to help with this year’s harvest. On Saturday mornings through August and September, volunteers will pick for about two hours among the 10-acre winery’s 4,000 vines. Afterward, volunteers will be treated to a complimentary lunch and wine.

“It’s a great way for people to come out and interact with the winery, to do something a little different,” Sollo said.

The grapes are still a couple of weeks away from harvest, Sollo said. He’s still not sure when the first Saturday harvest will take place – either Aug. 10 or Aug. 17.

Sollo said early-morning picking is essential, as heat and sunlight can compromise a grape’s flavor.

“It messes with the juice content, and you end up getting some interesting, less than ideal flavors in the wine,” Sollo said.

Depending on the variety of grape that’s scheduled for picking, Sollo said the winery usually requires between 30 and 100 volunteer pickers.

Grace Hill opened in June 2008, about three years after the first grapevines were planted. The winery grows seven different types of grapes, the most popular of which, Sollo said, is the chambourcin.

That’s the grape Grace Hill uses in its Peckerhead Red and Dodging Tornados wines, which are characterized by a medium-bodied, cherry taste. The vineyard’s most popular white wine is made with a chardonel grape. It is a slightly more acidic, lighter-flavored wine.

Sollo recommends that those interested in volunteering call the winery at 316-799-2511 to be placed on an initial waiting list, and check the winery’s Facebook page at frequently for updates.