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September 22, 2013

Redbud Ridge Vineyard harvest yields friendships

NORMAN — Sharon Minor is one of a large group of friends and strangers who gather every year to help Tom and Jann Knotts harvest their grapes. The Knotts are the proprietors of Redbud Ridge Vineyard & Winery, located in southeast Norman.

Minor was a stranger who happened past the vineyard and decided to stop. By the time she left that day, she had volunteered to help with the next harvest. She’s been helping for six years now and has long since become a friend.

“I’m a veteran now,” she said.

Minor said after the netting is removed from the grapes, the volunteer crew uses clippers to cut the stems on clusters of deep purple grapes. The clusters go into a bucket and periodically someone comes around in a cart pulling a wagon and trades empty buckets for full ones.

On this sunny day, the harvest at Redbud feels more like a community picnic than a work session. The volunteer crew is fed a buffet-style breakfast in the shade of the trees that abut the vineyard.

A few of the harvesters are longtime friends. Others, like Minor, just thought it would be fun to harvest grapes. Tom Knotts said some come once out of curiosity. Many, however, return year after year. Each leaves with a bottle of Redbud, made in Oklahoma, wine.

Grape growing is an avocation that connects growers to the rhythm of the seasons. When the grapes reach vraison — that time when they change from green to red — the vines are covered with netting.

“Mother Nature shows up when you have something sweet,” Knotts said.

Birds, turkey, deer, possum and raccoons are among the wild creatures that would love to feast on the tasty fruit as it ripens on the vine. Critters are not the only concern. This year, the harvest yielded about half a normal crop because of late freezes.

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