Grape picking at Polvado brings in over 25,000 lbs
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
Saturday, August 10, turned out to be a perfect day for harvest at Polvado Vineyards in Vanderpool on the west end of Bandera County. A diverse crowd of young and old from across the state happily grabbed clippers and buckets to bring in over 25,000 pounds of grapes.
The day started early under the oaks with a continental breakfast and plenty of hot coffee as the sun climbed over the bluffs of the Sabinal River. Staff handed out clippers and Andrea McGilvray gave a quick course on picking. Everyone grabbed a five-gallon plastic bucket and headed out to the vineyard, where 2,000 heavily laden vines waited.
Owners Texas Tom and Glenda Slaughter started Polvado Vineyards in 2006 on land that has been in the family since before Texas was a state. It is the first commercial vineyard in Bandera County. The 2013 harvest was their fifth. The drip irrigated Black Spanish Lenoir grapes continue to exceed expectations in production, said Tom Slaughter.
The Black Spanish grape traveled from Spain to what would become Mexico and then north to Texas. It's a hardy specimen that produces its small, sweet fruit through drought, storms, freezes and whatever nature throws at it. It is an excellent grape for table wine, blush wines and port.
The celebratory harvest has become a hugely popular volunteer event, with pickers coming from all over the state to sweat in the hot sun. They come for the camaraderie, the good food and the music. Many of this summer's pickers were first timers, but there were also many, like former Bandera Mayor Bob Cowan and his wife, Nancy, who were returnees.
Also sighted among the happy harvesters were attorneys John and Cindy Payne, hunting ranch operators Dave and Sharon Koehler and family, Master Naturalist Tom Riordan of Pipe Creek, and Lee and Becky Kneupper.
The Slaughters currently deliver their grapes to three Texas wineries, but are excited about the expansion of their business with the construction of Lost Maples Winery on the premises.
"We'll be able to produce our own wines right here and we'll have a tasting room and other amenities," said Glenda Slaughter.
As the sun became hotter, the pickers continued to fill their buckets, dumping them into large boxes placed at the end of the rows. A farm tractor made its circuit, picking up the boxes, taking them to be weighed and loaded onto the transport truck.
Around 11 am, calls of, "Are there any more grapes? Is this field done?" rang out as pickers looked for the last of the fruit.
"We're finished!" came the call at last.
Feeling comfortably weary, the pickers headed back to the oak mott to enjoy deliciously cold white and red sangria and other assorted drinks. The Green Onion Review Band from Houston rocked out some rhythm and blues from the impromptu stage.
At noon, Tom Slaughter offered grace, thanking the Lord for "a great harvest and old and new friends."
Lines quickly formed for a repast of fresh baked bread, salads, cookies, tender brisket and spicy sausage expertly cooked by David McGilvray.
With muscles tired and stomachs full, the pickers sat back to enjoy getting to know one another while the band played.
Polvado Vineyards is located on State Highway 187 just north of Lost Maples Store. Go to their website to learn more. If joining the harvest sounds like something you've got on your "bucket list," you can friend them on Facebook and they'll let you know when to show up next summer.
In the meantime, look for the opening of Lost Maples Winery before the end of the year.