Community Volunteers Lend Helping Hands to Bring in a Bountiful Harvest at Coyote Moon Vineyards
Contributed by Valerie Hickman
Coyote Moon Vineyards located on East Line Road, Clayton, New York is the largest vineyard in Jefferson County with over 20 acres of grapes. As most people know, Jefferson County, as well as many other areas of the country, experienced a warmer than usual summer this year with much less rain. In many cases this would cause issues for farmers and wreck havoc on their crops. Not so for Coyote Moon Vineyards and their cold hardy varietals. The grapes grown at Coyote Moon Vineyards can withstand extreme temperatures and thrive in harsh conditions. In fact, due to the heat, the grapes were ready for harvest sooner than last year and the fruit grown was excellent and bountiful. The only drawback to the growing season occurred during an early spring cold snap. About two acres of the LaCrescent vineyard had a significant amount of damage and loss due to the unexpected frigid weather, but the other vineyards were undamaged and have flourished.
Although these cold hardy varietals can withstand temperatures of -40 degrees and thrive in a shorter growing season, they do require a certain amount of tender loving care when it is harvest time. Phil Randazzo, owner and winemaker, is in the vineyards daily checking acid levels leading up to the harvest. The lower the acid, the more mellow the wine will be when it is crafted. If the pH is too high the fruit will spoil, it is a precise art. Coyote Moon Vineyards’ cold hardy varietals, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, La Crescent, Brianna, and Marquette, are harvested only when the brix levels, pH levels, and acid levels have attained the perfect balance. Once the balance is met, the grapes must be quickly harvested so that Phil Randazzo can begin crafting his award-winning wine. As each vine is harvested, only the finest grapes are selected to become Coyote Moon’s award-winning wines. If the cluster does not meet the Randazzo family’s standards, the cluster will not continue the journey to become award-winning wine.
Some may question why Phil Randazzo hand harvests his grapes. There are many answers to that question, including, the age of the vineyard, the hand-selection of only the finest clusters, and Coyote Moon’s adherence to only the finest standards to ensure only the finest fruit becomes Coyote Moon’s award-winning wine. Phil Randazzo noted that, “It is my firm belief that wine is made in the vineyard. We can make great wine with great fruit...wine makers can also make bad wine with great fruit...but you can’t make great wine with lousy fruit. Thanks to the warm, dry summer this season’s harvest has been awesome. The grapes are spectacular; they have exceeded all expectations.” Phil continued with stating that, “[t]he Marquette grapes were off-the-chart great...beyond our wildest expectation! They had high brix, low acid, perfect pH and all locally grown. Our Marquette this year is destined for French and Hungarian barrels on its long journey to becoming another great Marquette vintage...maybe the greatest of them all!”
With enthusiasm like that it is no surprise that the volunteers were happy to meticulously comb through the vineyards. More than 55 community members volunteered to help hand harvest the grapes along side the Randazzo family and Coyote Moon staff. The volunteers gathered in the early hours of the morning and while they enjoyed breakfast they learned how to harvest grapes. The Randazzos worked with the volunteers to show them how to sort the fruit and choose only the best grapes for processing. The volunteers understand how important the harvest is to Coyote Moon Vineyards and Jefferson County wines and are excited to taste the fruits of their labor in next year’s wine release. The volunteers took a great deal of pride and ownership over what they were doing; they know they are a part of something really very special. The Randazzos were overwhelmed by the community’s support and treated everyone to an afternoon luncheon in the vineyard. Volunteers satiated their hunger and taste buds with home-cooked foods, award-winning wines, and wine slushies spread across white linen tablecloths set within the vineyards they had just harvested. It was a wonderful way to honor everyone for their support.
Coyote Moon Vineyards is on the cutting edge of a brand new industry in Jefferson County and the North Country. Every harvest brought in is another Jefferson County award-winning wine created. The air, soil, water, and location of a geographic area interacting with the vineyard is known as the terroir. The terroir becomes the body and soul of a wine, it gives the wine a distinct personality that cannot be found elsewhere. Jefferson County’s rich, deep clay soil, and the vibrant, refreshing St. Lawrence River Valley combined with the sometimes gentle, sometimes robust Jefferson County winds carrying the sweet, savory and fresh notes across the land create an exceptional terroir that can be tasted in every bottle. It’s a unique taste that cannot be found anywhere else and it is an exciting frontier for wine drinkers to embark upon. If you have not yet had the chance to taste Coyote Moon Vineyards’ delectable award-winning wines, stop by for some “Excitement, Romance, and Award-Winning Wine” today. You will see for yourself why Coyote Moon Vineyards is becoming one of the most award-winning wineries in New York. Coyote Moon Vineyards offers daily tastings at both its Clayton locations, East Line Road and Riverside Drive. For more information check out the website at www.coyotemoonvineyards.com or call 315-686-5600.