By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
David and Amy Spegal, owners of Madison Vineyard in West Jefferson, are taking a unique approach to harvesting their first grape crop.
The fledgling vineyard is an extension of their main business, the Madison Garden Center, which local non-profit groups often solicit for donations. This fall, the Spegals are exchanging donations for help in the vineyard.
“It’s a way for kids to raise money and pick up some work ethic and, hopefully, have fun,” David said. “It’s helpful on both ends—for us and for them.”
The Grove City Titans, a 12-and-under baseball team, and London Middle School’s eighth-grade volleyball team helped with the first picking on Sept. 22.
“We also had about 10 volunteers come out who frequent the store and our wine tastings. They split the grapes they picked between the two teams. They just wanted to be part of the first harvest,” David said.
The harvest process is simple. Using pruners, volunteers snip off ripe bunches of grapes and toss them into crates. The grapes are weighed, and the Spegals make a donation based on the pounds picked.
In just two-and-a-half hours, the youths and volunteers at the first picking plucked 2,200 pounds of grapes.
“It was a really good time. The kids all worked hard. Afterwards, they hung out, threw a football around and talked. It went really well,” David said.
The baseball team is using the money to help defray fees for uniforms, umpires and other expenses. The volleyball team will use their earnings to cover costs associated with their end-of-season banquet.
“We’ll have two more pickings in the next few weeks,” David said. “Any group that wants to come out and pick, just give us a call.”
About the vineyard
Three years ago, the Spegals planted 800 grape vines at their business on Route 40 on the east side of West Jefferson. They received guidance from viticulture (grape growing) experts at The Ohio State University, which supports the expansion of vineyards in Ohio to meet the demand for locally grown grapes.
This is the first year the Spegals’ vines are ready for a full-blown harvest. With an estimated yield of 12 pounds per vine, David said he expects his one-acre crop to yield three to four tons of grapes this year.
“It’s a beautiful thing seeing the vines with all these grapes on them,” he said.
The first variety to come off is Vignoles, a grape that makes a sweet white wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes are due for harvest in October.
The Spegals sent the first picking to Eldchrist Winery in Plain City for processing. The owners of Eldchrist served as mentors to the Spegals as they got their vineyard up and running.
Madison Vineyard’s first batch of bottled Vignoles wine should be ready in six to eight months. It, along with the wine made from the vineyard’s other grapes, will sport private labels with names that tip a hat to the local area: Big Darby Blend, Little Darby Blend, Creeping Jenny (named for a plant groundcover), and possibly Bison Blend (a nod to the bison herd at nearby Battelle Darby Creek Metropark).
Madison Garden Center holds wine tastings just about every other Friday featuring both Ohio and out-of-state wines. David said he can’t wait until next year when the tastings can feature Madison Vineyard wines, as well.
For more information about the grape harvest at Madison Vineyard and fundraising opportunities, call (614) 879-6789 and ask for Lori or Becky.