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Fiorelli Winery to host grape-picking experience in east Bradenton

The grape harvest will allow people to get hands-on experience in the winemaking process.

Kristin Hokanson, who owns Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard with her husband, John, is looking forward to the winery's next grape picking experience where participants will be able to have their chance to pick grapes right off the vines.
Kristin Hokanson, who owns Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard with her husband, John, is looking forward to the winery's next grape picking experience where participants will be able to have their chance to pick grapes right off the vines.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Kristin and John Hokanson, the owners of Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard, loved seeing the excitement on people’s faces as they picked grapes in a race to see which team could collect the most.

The winners during Fiorelli Winery’s grape harvest June 17 had the opportunity to crush grapes with their feet with the must (the term for stopped grapes and the juices) being produced into a wine customized for them. 

The Hokansons are looking forward to their next harvest Aug. 26 and another contest. 

During the grape-picking experience, Kristin Hokanson said participants will learn about the process of wine making, from vine to bottle. They’ll also enjoy breakfast, lunch and a wine tasting. After lunch, the group will tour the winery to learn about what happens to the grapes after they’ve been picked. 

Lori Lordachescu and Michelle Ulman stomp the grapes that will produce go into their customized bottle of wine after winning the grape-picking contest at Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard.
Courtesy photo

Once again, the winners of the grape-picking contest will crush grapes that will be made into a wine. That wine will be bottled with a photo of the winning team on the bottle and a special label for the team. 

“You don’t quite know what to expect when you step in a bucket full of grapes,” Kristin Hokanson said with a laugh. “It feels squishy … and wet.”

Kristin Hokanson said the grape-picking experience is a result of the community demonstrating an interest in learning and being a part of the wine making process. 

“We knew people love wine and they love to come out and drink wine, but we had no idea there was so much interest in people learning the entire process,” she said. “We had people calling to say it’s been on their life bucket list to be able to be a part of a grape harvest. To be able to come out here and do that, they were able to check it off.”

John Hokanson said some people on social media were posting about how the winery wanted free labor, but he disputed the claim. He said the winery’s staff can harvest the grapes faster and more efficiently, but they wanted to involve the community. 

“While (grape-picking experience) was a little bit more work, it was more fun,” he said. 

Throughout the picking experience in June, Kristin Hokanson said the group built camaraderie and many people made new friends. 

Kristin Hokanson said opening the grape harvest to the public also gave people an opportunity to learn about agriculture in East County. 

“There are so many wonderful agritourism properties out here and the fact that our community wants to be a part of that agritourism and those local farming activities just shows what a great community we live in,” she said. 

Some of the grapes at Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard are almost ready for harvest.
Photo by Liz Ramos

The Hokansons are in their third year since taking ownership of the winery and vineyard. The vineyard had six types of grapes, and the staff harvests the grapes three times per year, harvesting two varieties of grapes at a time.

John Hokanson said the work they’ve done over the past two years has prepared them to be able to host an exclusive grape-picking event. For example, the Hokansons have worked with the University of Florida to learn about trimming, pesticides, fertilizers and more to ensure the best and easiest harvest. 

“Every year, it’s just been educating ourselves on the vines and what we could do better to produce a better yield from year to year,” Kristin Hokanson said. “We didn’t want to put this event together until we were fully confident that we were able to give a fun and educational experience and make it as easy as possible to pick the grapes.”

Although the couple has three years of harvests under their belts, Kristin Hokanson said the weather plays a major role in determining when the grapes are ready. They test them for their sugar levels and also simply taste them to see if they are sweet enough. 

The amount of rain can impact whether the grapes are ready early.



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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