Cooperative weather has put plenty of grapes on Texas vines, and wineries are now recruiting volunteers to help pick them.
In a stratagem with shades of Tom Sawyer, small wineries annually appeal to connoisseurs to join them for harvesting. As Jeanette Raines of Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville concedes, if agritourists don't show up on Saturday, July 17, to help pick their Blanc de Bois grapes, "somebody else would have to do it, and it would have to be us."
Austin County Vineyards in Cat Spring is also sponsoring a come-and-pick-'em event on July 17.
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Bernhardt Winery advises its harvesting helpers to wear closed-toe shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent, and to arrive armed with water and clippers or pruning shears.
"You go up and down the rows and sniff them and put them in a container," Raines says. "We never know how many are going to be here, but it's always fun."
Raines says participants usually gain a deeper appreciation of wine -- or at least the work that goes into producing it. But if new-found understanding isn't sufficient incentive to hit the vineyard at 7:45 a.m., Bernhardt and Austin County both offer their volunteers a free lunch and a glass of wine.
Raines says participants will have earned their meal: "It's been a very good year for grapes."