We finished our first harvest—hooray!

Before I tell/show you more about the harvest, I want to thank my “happiness engineer” (this is the title they use) at WordPress.com for telling me about an app called EXIFPurge that removes orientation metadata from photos. It’s now an added step to run my blog photos through EXIFPurge before loading them, but no more upside down/inside out photos!

About the harvest...

We harvested seven varieties which totaled 23 ½ tons of grapes from our vineyard and two vineyards we lease. Depending on the variety its now in barrels or tanks at King Family Vineyard transitioning from grapes to wine.

Harvesting is a truly tactile process—drawing heavily on sight, taste, and odor.  I can’t capture the taste or smell but I’ve got some great photos that will give you a sense of the whole Cab Francprocess.  We harvested four of the five red grapes that are used to make a Bordeaux blend.

Cabernet Franc (left)

Cab Sauv CabSav




Cabernet Sauvignon (right)

Merlot (left)



MFF Petit VerdotPetit Verdot

We also harvested three whites.

Young ChardonnayThis is young Chardonnay several weeks before harvesting.

Pinot Gris is the gray white winePinot Gris









Viognier is the considered the white wine of Virginia.


In addition to great grapes, we discovered you need the help of fabulous friends and family to get the harvest in.

harvesting Cab Franc LHV

harvesting at LHV






We had some beautiful weather for harvesting and also some very wet days.  Can you identify the people under the rain gear?

Harvesting in the Rain LHV


Beth harvesting in the rain








After harvest, the grapes were transported to King Family Vineyards and stored in the cold Weighing the grapesroom overnight.  Loading the trailer






The next day each pallet was weighed and then sorted.



Happily, we were fortunate to also have fabulous friends and family to help process the grapes at the sorting and vibrating tables.

sorting Cab Franc




So, what's next? First, Matthieu and Bruce will turn all those wonderful grapes into incredible wine.   Then, we'll share them with you at Cunningham Creek Winery (at Middle Fork Farm).  We plan to break this month -- stay tuned!



My technical skills are really limited so I can't explain why the photos from my last post, Time for Rose, are rotated in various directions on Smartphones. It's all good on the computer.  I'm in touch with my "happiness engineer" and will hopefully be able to correct this problem soon!  In the meantime, if anyone is a Word Press Pro, I'd love your help.

IMG_9579As of Sunday, the whites (Chardonnay, Viognier, and Pinot Gris) were sorted, pressed and safely tucked into barrels and tanks (and available for a first taste). So, we moved on to making Rose using the young Cab Franc grapes harvested on Saturday.

Rose is usually made with red grapes that are lightly crushed and allowed to sit for a short time before being pressed. This makes the lovely pinkish color, which reflects the time on skins and grape variety.

As with the white grapes, after harvesting we refrigerated the grapes overnight.  This helped them retain their juice and assured that they Cab Franc in the bindidn't prematurely start to ferment.  On Sunday, they started their trek through various pieces of equipment to transition from fruit to wine. First,  we sorted to eliminate bad fruit and then the grapes moved from sorting table to conveyor to de-stemmer to bin.

They stayed in covered bins until Tuesday, when they moved again.  This time from bin to conveyor to press.




After the press, the juice (collected in the trough below) went to stainless steel tanks. In the late spring,  It will be bottled and we hope you’ll come by next summer to enjoy some with us.


Rose is best served chilled and (based on my research) pairs well with almost anything—spicy foods, cheeses, flatbread, salads, seafood, and more. Check out Food and Wine for some tasty sounding recipes.

So far, I've been telling you about the "fun" part of making wine but I've failed to mention that there's a whole lot of equipment and winery cleaning that takes place constantly.  You could say that 75% of wine making is actually spent cleaning.  Fortunately, we had lots of help!




Gary (the newest member of the Lucy and Ethyl Club) received kudos for getting the conveyor the cleanest ever.





Sometimes its not just cleaning but taking apart and then cleaning. Here's Rick cleaning the de-stemmer after he disassembled it.



Stay tuned for news of our red grape harvest -- Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Cab Sav, and Malbec.  Depending on the weather, we'll start next week.



We've been really busy harvesting, sorting, and pressing for the past week.  As of Saturday night, we've progressed to the wine making process for Pinot Gris, Viognier, and Chardonnay.

Pinot Gris was the first to be harvested--approximately 4 1/2 tons, which will make about 300 cases of wine!  As you can imagine, harvesting goes much faster with many hands.  So, we were fortunate that along with Bruce, Rick, our regular farm crew, and me, our friend, Brandon, stopped by and helped.



Like every job, there's a certain amount of prep before you get to the main event.  Before harvesting, there are two main tasks. The order doesn't really matter. The bird netting needs to be unclipped at the bottom and raised up.  For me, this is the worst part -- lots of bending and sometimes contorting to get the clip undone.  Also lugs to hold the clusters have to be distributed every few plants along the rows that are going to be harvested. Each lug holds 25-30 lbs and at the end of the harvest we drive down the rows and load the full lugs on the truck or trailer.


The actual harvesting was really fun, as harvesting anything you've grown always is!   Each cluster of grapes is inspected before we clip it and drop it into a lug. We check for sour rot (smells like vinegar) and bird, bug, or critter damage and remove the bad grapes.  This makes sorting at the winery go much faster.


In addition to our 2-legged harvesters, we had Snickers and Doodle.  Their job descriptions were at first unclear but Doodle quickly appointed herself "official protector of filled lugs" and took this job very seriously.  Snickers did what herd dogs do--she herded me and made sure I didn't get lost in the vineyard.


IMG_9426Once the grapes are loaded up, it goes to King Family Winery for processing.  First, it's refrigerated overnight and then the next day it gets sorted--once again looking for bad grapes--and pressed.  The sorting table  always reminds me of  Lucy and Ethyl hiding chocolates in their hats (and elsewhere).   For that reason, I've initiated the Lucy and Ethyl Club for all our friends who graciously volunteer to help with this task.  Pam is the most recent member of this very exclusive club.


From the sorting table, it travels up the conveyor belt to the press, where the grapes are pressed and juice is extracted.  The juice goes into a fermenter for 1-3 weeks depending on the style of wine being made.  From there it goes into either stainless steel tanks or oak barrel to await bottling. The winemakers, Matthieu and Bruce, monitor it along the way for flavor and body so that's it tastes just right when it gets to your glass!


In the last three years we’ve had a lot of firsts…

Our first strawberries

Middle Fork Farm strawberries

Our first grape vines

Middle Fork Farm vines

Our first kids

Middle Fork Farm kids

Our first spread

Middle Fork Farm spreads

Our first winemaking

Middle Fork Farm wine making

Tomorrow, we’ll have another much anticipated first—our first grape harvest from OUR vines! We’ll only harvest the white varieties, Pinot Gris, Viognier, and Chardonnay tomorrow. The reds need another week or so before they’ll be ripe enough to pick.

Immature Chardonnay

Middle Fork Farm Chardonnay

Mature Chardonnay

Middle Fork Farm Chardonnay





Bruce and Rick determine picking time by testing the balance of the sweetness (measured in Brix) and acidity of the fruit. To do this, they take a random sample every couple of days when the fruit starts to look ripe. The sample is then tested and when the fruit is above 20 Brix with a pH that is less than 3.3, it’s time to pick.

Pinot Gris



Middle Fork Farm Viognier







So, it’ll be an early start and our first task will be to pull back the bird netting that has Middle Fork Farm grapesprotected the growing fruit from, you guessed it—birds. Grape clusters are snipped at the base of the cluster and placed in bins. When we’re done, the bins go to King Family Vineyard to be made into wine. It will be refrigerated overnight and then sorted on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for pictures of picking and sorting and more about the wine making process.

We had another great day at Williams Sonoma this past Saturday. Erica and her crew, as well as the customers are total foodies, which makes sharing our spreads a pleasure.

Once again, we made our turkey, havarti, and spicy strawberry Paninis. These were a big hit last time and we love them, as well.  Also, we're trying to highlight ways jam can be used with savory foods—there are so many possibilities!   I also admit to loving the Breville Panini maker at Williams Sonoma and wanting to use it again (I promised Erica I wouldn’t hide it in my bag when we left).

But, if you’re like me and you don’t have a Panini maker at home, two frying pans work just fine or any non-stick surface to weigh down the sandwich.  Also, if you don’t want the turkey (or ham), jettison it and make a “grown-up” grilled cheese with your favorite cheese and lots of spicy strawberry spread. Or, if you’re gluten-free, substitute a corn tortilla and make a “grown-up” quesadilla.

OK, let’s talk about dessert.  We made two.

Middle Fork Farm at Williams Sonoma

We made strawberry lavender ice cream with dark chocolate chunks—yum! For this we used the sweet cream base #2 recipe from Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book and added a jar of strawberry lavender spread and a bar of 72% dark chocolate roughly chopped. At home, I would also add nuts (walnut or pecan) to this and maybe put fresh fruit or hot fudge on top. Or, just eat it plain right from the ice cream canister.

For our 2nd dessert, we served chocolate thumbprint cookies with strawberry vanilla spread. If you like chocolate and fruit, these are for you. Any of your flavors would make a delicious filling with the possible exception of spicy strawberry. We adapted the cookie recipe from Pinch of Yum.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Spread

  1. Chocolate Thumbprints with Strawberry VanillaCream 1 c + 2 T softened unsalted butter and ¾ cup sugar.  Add 1/3 c cocoa (we used King Arthur Double Dutch Dark Cocoa)
  2. In a clean bowl, combine 2 c flour, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp baking soda, & 1 tsp baking powder
  3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and combine
  4. Roll into small balls. Make a thumbprint and fill with jam (the yield depends on the size ball you make. Ours were pretty small and we got about 40 cookies).
  5. Bake at 3500 for about 9 minutes, depending on your oven and how soft/crisp you want them
  6. Let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.

As you can tell, it was a tasty event!

In September, we'll be back at  Williams Sonoma and plan to share some new fall recipes. If you’re in the area, I hope you'll join us!  In the meantime, we're always looking for delicious new recipes that use our spreads so,  please share them with us and we'll post them.

Our friend, Pat, has a passion for many things —playing great music (see Local Vocals), selling real estate (he spent 4 years searching with us), and cooking delicious food for friends. After tasting our Spicy Strawberry Spread, he was eager to “play” with it.  A few evenings later, he showed up with a late night treat -- Spicy Strawberry BBQ Chicken.

Sara was eager to try it out (and take photos for this post) but had limited time.  She skipped the marinade and roasted it in the the oven.  Her family reported that it was  "delicious.”

Thanks, Pat! Thanks, Sara!

The timing couldn't be better because whether you grill it or roast it,  Spicy Strawberry BBQ Chicken is perfect for Father's Day!

So, here’s Spicy Strawberry BBQ Chicken 2-ways using Pat’s recipe with a slight modification from Sara.

Spicy Strawberry Sauce

thumb_IMG_7139_1024Combine the following ingredients:

1 jar Middle Fork Farm Spicy Strawberry

¼ c. Ketchup

¼ c. Canola oil

1 garlic clove crushed (added by Sara)

Salt and pepper

Grilled BBQ Chicken


  1. Marinade thighs in Italian dressing and garlic cloves for 1-2 hours
  2. Sear chicken skin-side down
  3. Flip chicken and cook bone side down (Pat says the bone will radiate the heat to the meat)
  4. When 80% cooked, brush BBQ sauce on skin side
  5. Serve with extra sauce


 Oven roasted BBQ Chicken


  1. Cover top of chicken with Spicy Strawberry BBQ sauce
  2. Bake covered for 1 hour at 3500
  3. Remove foil and put under the broiler for 10 minutes
  4. Top with red pepper flakes
  5. Serve with extra sauce


If you've been "playing" with our strawberry spreads, let us know what you created. ...continue reading

Bruce, Rick, Sara, Snickers, Doodle & I all want to say THANK YOU for choosing us as your destination for U Pick strawberries!

Thank you for supporting local farming!

Thank you for being kind to the plants (so they can keep on producing)!

Thank you for keeping our farm and creek clean!

Thank you for spreading the word!

Middle Fork Farm U pick

Middle Fork Farm U PickWe loved meeting so many enthusiastic berry pickers, strawberry spread tasters and picnickers over the Memorial Weekend.   From what you told us, you were busy making a lot of strawberry pies and ice cream once you got home. And, of course, eating good ol’ delicious berries right from the bowl.

Middle Fork Farm berry picking



It was wonderful to see berry pickers of all ages, including a lot of multi-generational families sharing holiday fun. The toddler set definitely had an advantage due to their proximity to the berries (but probably limited by their attention span).

Middle Fork Farm creek



After picking, the  creek was a fun place to cool off.  Our creek (Middle Fork of Cunningham Creek) is quite healthy so we heard lots of shrieks and giggles as kids caught (and released) frogs, crayfish, and baby turtles.


Snickers and Doodle were much less active than the kids. They greeted a few early pickers and then decided to sleep at the check-out table for the rest of the day—we should have hung a "do not disturb" sign on them.

MiddleForkFarmSnickersNext weekend we’ll be sampling our brand new strawberry spread flavor, Strawberry Merlot (in anticipation of our tasting room/winery opening in 2016).

Weather permitting, we'll be open weekends through the end of June--check Facebook for updates.  We're also available for private pickings for groups of 10 or more on Wed., Thurs., and Fri.

Come see us, taste all our yummy spreads, and pick your own berries.


We know you love strawberries -- so we made the assumption that  you might be fascinated by some strawberry trivia.

  • Over 53 percent of seven to nine year olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.
  • Eight strawberries will provide 140 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for kids.
  • Middle Fork Farm strawberriesOne cup of strawberries is only 55 calories.
  • Strawberries are not true berries because their seeds are on the outside—usually around 200 of them.
  • Strawberries are a member of the genus Fragaria, which is the rose family.
  • Strawberries are grown in every state in the United States and every province of Canada.
  • Native forms of strawberries adapt to various climates and are indigenous to every major continent except Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Seventy per cent of a strawberry's roots are located in the top three inches of soil.
  • Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring.
  • The Musee de la Fraise is a museum in Belgium just for strawberries.
  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the annual per capita consumption of fresh and frozen strawberries is 4.85 pounds (Yours are waiting for you at Middle Fork Farm!)

Middle Fork Farm strawberries

Remember we'll be open for Pick Your Own on Sat. and Sun. through the end of June (maybe longer, if the weather is kind! Check our Facebook page for exact times and weather updates)  If you have a group of 10 or more, you can also schedule a private picking on Wed.,  Thurs., or Fri.  Be sure to get your Berry Lover's Club card---buy 10 get 1 free!







You’ve already read a lot about our goats and you’ve met Snickers and Doodle, our Australian Shepherds, but lots of people want to know what other critters live on the farm. So, this blog is all about the non-human residents of Middle Fork Farm--horses, a mini-mule, cats, and chickens.

I’ll start with horses and introduce you to our newest barnyard resident, Cunningham (aka Charlie).


Cunningham is a Warmblood colt born on April 15 to my mare, Avery. He’s a big guy and quite rambunctious. We were lucky enough to get to watch his birth, which was really exciting. Avery is doing an amazing job as a first-time mom. She’s super attentive to Charlie, but perfectly happy to allow us in to handle and admire him.





Avery’s herd-mates include Gracie, Isabelle, and Jackson.   Gracie is a registered Paint without any spots. This is known as a breeding stock horse. She’s a wonderful trail horse and even though she’s the smallest, she’s the alpha mare.





Isabelle, another Warmblood, is my friend, Bennie’s, dressage and trail horse. She and Avery are best buddies and before Charlie, were always together.



Jackson, our clever and precociousMiddleForkFarmJackson mini-mule has experience as a foal-nanny and can't wait to play with Charlie.  Last fall he discovered a way to escape through the electric fence. After we caught and returned him several times, he decided he didn’t need an escort and as soon as we got close, he’d take off and put himself back in the pasture.


Keeping the horses company in the barn are our 5 wonderful barn cats. They are friendly and earn their keep as incredible hunters! Two years ago a neighbor gave us Jewel and her week-old kittens. All are solid grey. Two, Subway and Pepper, went to live with Sara and Rick (really with Laura and Maya), one went to a friend, and other two stayed with us. As they were identical, it seemed only appropriate to name them Darryl and Darryl.






And, since we had Darryl and Darryl we needed a Larry (see Bob Newhart show). Larry is either trying to roll over on the top fence board or following someone around. He was with us to watch Charlie’s birth!





Ty Kitty is our last addition. She was a rescue after Sara’s friend found her stuck in the engine of her car. She was a tiny kitten when we got her and has since grown into a beautiful fluffy cat determined to catch the birds in the rafters of the barn (totally impossible!).



Twelve laying hens round out the barn. We do love our fresh eggs but have discovered the origin of the expression "dumb cluck."  Recently we added 7 Cochin hens to our flock.  I was warned that this variety likes to "sit" (i.e. sit on eggs and try to hatch them, even if they're not fertile).  It was certainly not an understatement. How many chickens do you see in this box?


The answer is 3.

If you’ve been following us, you know our goat herd has grown. Most of the kids have moved on to new homes, but we added 7 doelings from this year’s group to our herd. We do have our last 3 bucklings are for sale (for more information contact Sara at 540-540-424-3986).  Two of the bucklings (now wethers i.e. neutered males) are 4-H market projects and will be for sale at the Fluvanna Fair in August. Quizno, our buck, will be with us through this year’s breeding season.


Snickers and Doodle haven’t gotten into any trouble for awhile, although Doodle did present us with a dead raccoon this week—it is the beginning of raccoon and possum hunting season for Snickers and Doodle (mostly Doodle). They had their spring buzz-cut and, as you can see, look like puppies with big feet.


Strawberry News

The berry fields are looking quite white with blooms. We will be opening for Pick Your Own on Sat. May 23 and continue to be open on Sat. and Sun. through June (maybe even July, depending on the weather).  Exact dates and times will be posted on our Facebook page. If you have a group of 10 or more, we will schedule a special private picking for you during the week.

Please come visit us, pick some berries, meet Snickers and Doodle, and enjoy a picnic by the creek.