Volunteers help with the harvest at Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford

Volunteers help with the harvest at Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Just as the grapes ripen, Gouveia Vineyards transforms into a Portuguese village as neighbors and friends dine on shrimp and rice after lending a hand to harvest acres of vines.

“It brings you back to your roots,” said Alli Gouveia, whose father, Joe Gouveia, started the vineyard almost 20 years ago and was out with the volunteers Sunday morning. “He wanted to create a place where the tables are together and you make friends with everyone you meet.”

After a short lesson on which grapes to pick, over 200 volunteers started the work of filling crates and hauling them back to the storehouse. In just a few hours the group can harvest between a third and a half of the 30 acres of vines at the Whirlwind Road vineyard.

Once the day’s work is done, they’re all welcome to a lunch of Portuguese food, dancers and grape stomping.

“When you hear the music, just the accordion alone...this is your ticket home,” said Alli Gouveia, whose family is of Portuguese descent. “It brings you back to your roots.”

“For a lot of people it’s their heritage,” said Carol Martin, of West Hartford, who was urged to come by a Portuguese friend who was volunteering. 

A wine enthusiast, Martin was also excited to get to see more of the wine making process firsthand and pick “the grapes that will make my white wine and red wine.”

“It was kind of difficult, but it was fun,” he said. “You don’t realize how much manual labor goes into it.”

“We always come for the sunsets, it’s absolutely beautiful,” said Paula Rose Varca, of Vernon, while taking a break after helping harvest four of the half dozen varieties volunteers were picking on Sunday.

Having grown up on a farm and grown a few grapes herself, she said participating in a harvest makes one more connected with their food and drink.

“It makes you appreciate Mother Earth and what it can provide,” she said.

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