HOLYOKE Dr. Andrew B. Chertoff knows his grapes.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Chertoff was surveying his more than 300 vines on a picturesque acre of land situated on the bank of the Connecticut River, knowing soon that netting will have to be applied to keep the birds at bay. Of course, it's not just the birds that have sought out the delectable fruit on the vine.
"Raccoons and deer all help themselves," said Chertoff during an interview with Reminder Publications in his stately office on Main Street. His office in Holyoke is one that is unrivaled with its unique d cor that transports one back in time.
Chertoff, an orthopedic surgeon for more than 26 years, spends several hours each week on vine maintenance and says he enjoys every minute of it.
"It's a great way to pass the day," he added.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a "concrete environment," he relishes every opportunity to be outdoors either at his home in West Springfield or at his vineyard in Holyoke which sits adjacent to the M. Leonard Chertoff Memorial Medical Building at 1236 Main St.
His vineyard venture came to light more than 12 years ago after seeing the movie, "A Walk in the Clouds."
"The movie inspired me," he said, noting that the 1995 romantic flick uses a grape harvest as its backdrop.
Chertoff admits that over the years of growing grapes he has had his share of mistakes, but also enjoys the challenge of growing grapes that can withstand the temperate effects of the Connecticut River. He has discovered over the years that the best grapes to grow in this area include Traminette, Seyval Blanc, Chardonel, Vignoles, Corot Noir, Noiret, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and DeChaunac.
An avid reader, he immersed himself (and still does) with countless books on the wine industry, and visited vineyards in Massachusetts and Connecticut, gleaning tricks of the trade from vintners. He noted he was eager to learn and the vineyard owners were welcoming in sharing valuable tips to help him get started. The hands-on experience was invaluable, he added.
Now as fall quickly approaches, it also signals the start of the harvest season a time that Chertoff prepares for and involves his family and friends. By the end of the harvest, Chertoff expects to yield approximately 50 gallons of white and red wine.
Chertoff makes the harvest an extra special time for family members and friends at his home in West Springfield who assist him in the harvest process. The end result is a weekend picnic where the fruits of their labors are eagerly enjoyed.
Chertoff also has designer labels for each of his bottles of either white, red or rose, and when pressed to name his favorite, he singles out the DeChaunac because of its "beautiful color, body, character, with hints of blackberry, cherry and blueberry."
After the last bunches of grapes are crushed in the coming weeks, there is still always something to do to ensure that the next year's harvest is just as fruitful.
"It's a year-long project that keeps me outdoors," said Chertoff, adding he especially likes the science that's involved with the process.
Whether it's learning the latest cutting edge technological advances in his field of orthopedics, or tinkering with making his wine just right, it is evident that Chertoff takes on every challenge with a robust sense of purpose.