Cabernet sauvignon grapevines in Croatia

I have always wanted to pick wine grapes. 

In my dreams, I was in Burgundy at a beautiful country chateau with gleeming vineyards sprawling in every direction. I spoke French, of course. 

We picked massive bunches of plump pinot noir, sneaking a few into our mouths every few feet as we made our way down the vines. Two for wine, three for me. 

Harvested cabernet sauvignon grapes in Croatia

Around noon, we breaked for an overindulgent lunch of roasted meats, marinated vegetables, pastas with lots of cream, and 7 desserts (because 6 just wouldn't be enough). The harvest feast was spread out on a long wooden table underneath the shade of grapevine canopy. 

We sipped chardonnay and devoured dish after dish until our bellies nearly burst with gluttony. It was all capped off by a long afternoon siesta to recharge for an afternoon of picking more grapes. Or perhaps it was the chardonnay. 

But this was a dream. The real thing is a little different. 

Picking cabernet sauvignon at Krolo Winery, Croatia

Instead of Burgundy, I was in Dalmatia, a region in southern Croatia. Instead of pinot noir, we picked cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Instead of a leisurely day of picking grapes, the backbreaking harvest started at dawn and ended at dusk with no naps in between. My broken French was not appreciated. 

Regardless of the discrepancies, the experience was just as enjoyable as the dream and the grapes were even sweeter. 

The grape harvest happens over two days in early October, although the date changes every year. The winemaker waits for the grapes to ripen to their ultimate peak. Once they do, everyone is called to duty. 

Grape harvesting is a family affair at the Krolo Winery. Cousins, aunts, daughters, son-in-laws, and fathers all joined in the effort. 

Grape harvest truck at Krolo Winery

Those not picking the grapes managed the grape processing and wine production. Once the harvested grapes are picked up from the vineyard, they are stemmed and pressed. 

Unload chardonnay grapes from the vineyard

Pressing chardonnay grapes

Chardonnay grape juice

The harvest lunch was just as I had hoped (sans the canopy). Long wooden table, covered in local dishes surrounded by storytelling and laughter. Lunch included a smorgasbord of traditional Dalmatian dishes including roasted pork, fagiole (beans and sausage), noodle soup, stuffed cabbage, freshly baked bread, and a number of pastries that I could not keep my hands off of. 

Grape harvest lunch with the Krolo family

After lunch, it was back to the vineyard. 

Grape harvesters at Krolo Winery

If you ever get the chance to harvest grapes, take it. It's definitely an experience for the bucket list. 

Click here to view more photos from the grape harvest in Croatia

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