The grapes of Carp: harvest time

CARP – For KIN Vineyards’ new owners, this year’s grape harvest is their first in a brand-new venture.

Lawyer Lorraine Mastersmith and accountant Shaun McEwan purchased West Carleton’s only vineyard from Chris Van Barr earlier this summer.

Last Friday (Oct. 11) the new owners and their team were picking the first grapes of the season, for their first time.

“We’ve been picking since just before first frost,” Mastersmith told West Carleton Online from the KIN Vineyard tent Saturday (Oct. 12) during a Harvest Party. “It’s a bit of an art as well as a science. Our winemaker Brian Hamilton goes around and tastes the grapes and then says if they’re ready. They get sweeter as more frost happens.”

So Mastersmith and McEwan don’t get a lot of notice of when harvest time will be. The two hosted a Harvest Party last Saturday where volunteers and friends came by to help pick grapes and were treated to a barbecue lunch and some KIN wine. About 40 came out in the light rain to get their boots dirty and bellies filled.

The married couple are learning fast and learning lots as they dive head-first in the wine industry.

“It’s wildly exciting and wildly scary at the exact same time,” McEwan said. “It’s like drinking from a fire hose.”

“We know business, we don’t know the wine business,” Mastersmith said.

The two professionals took the sommelier course at Algonquin College recently and are learning the industry while on the job.

But the 47-acre vineyard, wine-making facility and tasting room came with a “very knowledgeable, very helpful staff,” Mastersmith said.

Along with winemaker Hamilton, viticulturist Alan Krueger and several other staff members remain with the team.

“The staff here is devoted to the vineyard,” Mastersmith said of the 19 employees. “This is a huge diamond in the rough, it just needs a bit of polishing.”

But, at this time of year, harvesting comes before polishing. And it looks like its going to be a great harvest.

“Our harvest is phenomenal this year,” Mastersmith said. “I think the vines’ maturity is starting to help.”

At the time West Carleton Online spoke with the owners, the harvesting was only about two-thirds complete. The owners expect to have 30 to 40 per cent more grapes over last year. KIN also borrowed south Ontario vineyard Closson Chase’s press and was able to increase the efficiency of juice production by another 30 per cent.

“We’re probably 80 per cent higher in production this year,” McEwan said. “The 2019 vintage will be amazing.”

And plentiful.

Last year KIN Vineyard produced around 2,200 cases of wine.

“The goal was to hope for 2,600 cases this year and 3,000 the following year,” McEwan said. “We’re more likely to be 3,000 to 3,200 cases this year.”

After the grapes are harvested the couple are going to work on spreading the good name of KIN.

“Eight out of 10 people who come here have never heard of us before,” McEwan said. “I’ve lived in Carp for 10 years and didn’t know about it until six or seven months ago when my wife dragged me over.”

On that front, KIN is now available at select LCBOs. Starting Oct. 1 their chardonnay and sparkling wines are now available at some local LCBO outlets.

“Now we have the mission of going around and meeting all the store managers and having them stock our wine,” Mastersmith said. “Although we much prefer to sell it from here.”

And between the work, the couple will take time to enjoy their new purchase as well.

“It’s really cool when you think of all of it – the business, the land, the wine, the staff, all of it,” Mastersmith said.

“Six weeks ago, we were talking about easing in to retirement,” McEwan said.