Area vineyards are in the midst of the annual grape harvest and the consensus is that 2010 will be a very good year for wine.

Bluff Dale Vineyards in Bluff Dale and Red Caboose Winery in Meridian have been harvesting grapes for the past several weekends. Both wineries pick grapes the old-fashioned way, by hand.

They put out the word via the Internet that the grapes were ripe and ready. Volunteers poured in from Glen Rose, Granbury, Stephenville, Meridian, Arlington, China Spring and as far away as Conroe.

Young and old pickers snipped Syrah grapes from the vines at Red Caboose on Saturday, Aug. 7. Some volunteers made it a family affair and brought the kids along to pick and play with Buddy, the vineyard's Border Collie. Last weekend volunteers harvested Spanish Lenoir grapes at Bluff Dale Vineyards and then watched as the grapes were crushed and the juice and skins stored in big plastic bins for fermenting.

It was a good way to meet the owners, make new friends with a shared common interest and get a feel for winemaking where it begins in the vineyard.

David Hayes, who owns Bluff Dale Vineyards with his wife, Teresa, said this has been one of the best grape harvests ever. The winery has been open for six years and also grows Champanelle and Blanc du Bois grapes. It also buys grapes from the Texas High Plains.

Evan McKibben, winemaker at Red Caboose, said the winery grows more Syrah than any variety. Viognier grapes also have harvested and Malbec grapes hung heavy on the vines, waiting to be picked. Red Caboose is the first winery in Bosque County. Owner and architect Gary McKibben, Evan's father, designed Red Caboose to be energy efficient. Its cellar is partially subterranean.

It was amazing how many grapes volunteers picked in one morning 4,000 pounds at Red Caboose and 3,500 pounds at Bluff Dale. Both wineries treated volunteers to lunch after the harvest and (except for the kids, of course) wine.

Next time you raise a glass of vino and take a sip, think of all the sweat that goes into making a fine bottle of wine. It's the secret ingredient.

If you're interested in volunteering or visiting the wineries and tasting the wines, following is contact information. Both wineries also hold monthly music events.

Bluff Dale Vineyards

5222 County Road 148 (off U.S. 377 between Tolar and Bluff Dale)

254-728-3540

www.bluffdalevineyards.com

Red Caboose Winery

1147 County Road 1110 (off FM 2840 east of Meridian)

254-435-9911

www.redcaboosewinery.com