Harvest Brunch

October 03, 2012

I'm back as promised sharing a heavenly Harvest Brunch served after a morning of harvesting Merlot grapes.  I've told you about Rene and Brian's beautiful property in the northern California foothills of the coastal mountains where they grow Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes.  When the grapes are ready to harvest, each varietal ripening at a different time in September and October, Brian sends out the word to his friends to come gloved and hatted, ready to pick.  We are always happy to oblige because it is fun and our reward is Rene's fabulous Harvest Brunch.

Today we'll be harvesting 4 rows of Merlot grapes.


The early morning fog has lifted to reveal a gorgeous turquoise blue sky.

Just outside their hillside winery our supplies await.

This is our mission.

We harvesters need only to fill these bins and then magically they disappear, replaced with an empty bin.

Everyone has a job.

This day we had a dozen pickers, I don't know why we can't see them in this photo.

I love this picture, see the English riding ring to the left at the bottom of this tiny valley?

Just outside the winery, the destemmer/crusher is put to work. 

This operation not only crushes, 
but separates the grapes from the stems as they pass through.
The result is called the must.

The must was transferred to four 44 gallon tubs.
We picked 70 Merlot vines which yielded 108 gallons of must (crushed grapes and juice).  The must will be fermented for about 10 days then passed through a press to extract the juice from the skins.  From there the juice will be transferred to an oak barrel for up to two years of aging, eventually yielding about 400 bottles of wine.  You can read about the bottling process and party here.

When the harvest is over, the bins are washed out

Wine press.
The wine press has an expandable water-filled balloon to squeeze the juice from the pomace (crushed skins and seeds).  For red wines this is done after fermentation, for whites, before.

Everyone is put to work on harvest day!

Looks like the work for us guest workers is done so
let's go inside and see what Rene has come up with for brunch!

There is vino, natch!

Seating is carved out in all the prettiest spots.  Me?  I like a view!

The stunning Tomato Tart...recipe below.

Bread basket decorated with the beautiful Merlot grape.

Art is not only for hanging on walls...
here we find art on the buffet table.

Our hostess creates magic on a buffet table.

Down the road from our host's home is a small farm that sells seasonal produce on an honor system.  Everyday there are vegetables and flowers picked and ready for the taking, with a price posted and a box to put your money.  They are able to source most of their produce locally within a few miles of their home.

On the left, tomato, Roquefort and fig salad.

Assorted Breads and Cheeses
Tomato, Roquefort and Fig Salad
Assorted Local Fruits
Mushroom Quiche
Sausage and Egg Bake
Tomato and Onion Tart (recipe below)

The brunch table is set up in the kitchen.  Notice the periwinkle cupboards!

Our hostess is a quilter and a knitter.  I'm not too shy to prowl around to find her latest project.
Her newest grandchild is to be the recipient of this chocolate brown, coral and aqua quilt. 

I'll make sure you get to see the FO!

I love this tart recipe as it calls for no egg or cream 
and tastes as good as it looks.
(Source, a vintage Gourmet Magazine, more info in a bit)

 Tomato and Onion Tart

2 large onions, thinly sliced
salt to taste
2 T olive oil
butter pastry dough for a single 12 inch tart
1/2 pound dry Jack or Gruyere cheese, shredded, about 2 C
1/2 pound plum tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1/2 pound medium yellow tomatoes, about 2, or 1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2" wedges
1/4 C Nicoise olives, pitted

Cook onions in olive oil with salt to taste, covered over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove lid and cook inions, stirring occasionaly, until golden and any liquid evaporates.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Using a 12 inch removable bottom tart pan, partially bake your pastry crust (prick the bottom to prevent bubbling).  Spread onion mixture over dough and top with cheese.  Arrange tomato wedges and olives in concentric circles and season with salt and pepper.  Bake tart in middle of oven for 1 hour, or until pastry is golden.  Cool on a rack and serve warm or room temperature.  Serves 12-16 as part of a buffet.

Thank you for stopping by.  Next time, we'll go to an Octoberfest!


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  1. What fun! Love the photos. and the quilt! wow. The food looks so scrumptious. xomarlis

  2. You are one of the luckiest women on earth to have friends who own a vineyard!!! Not only because you get to sample the wine (although that's a HUGE advantage!), but because you are actually invited to participate in the ritual of harvesting the grapes!!! That must be a lot of hard work, but it's GOT to be a lot of fun, too. When you have 12 people doing the picking, it probably goes a lot faster. You said you picked 4 rows that day. How long are the rows? It looks as if they go on for miles!!! I just didn't realize everything that goes into the process. I have also learned a new term: the "must." I will have to try to impress my wine snob friends with that one soon! :-) What beautiful country it is there!!! Your hostess put on quite a spread for you hungry workers, and it is obvious she puts a lot of care into everything she does. The food is amazing! Not just take-out pizza like when you help somebody to move! :-) LOVE her kitchen cabinets!!!!!!!!! Both the design and the color are fabulous! I'm so glad I got a chance to visit your post today. This is really, really beautiful!!! Have a good weekend!

  3. This was a beautiful post, great photos. How special to have friends that own their own vineyard. A marvelous brunch by a marvelous hostess. Visiting from Seasonal Sundays. xo

  4. What a gorgeous post! Your photographs are amazing. Love the grapes.

    Great to have you be part of Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

  5. Kristen, another beautiful post. I am very lucky to have been to their beautiful home and vineyard. You have great friends and so many fun things that you all enjoy....


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