Fall in the vineyards. *Photo by Chad Taber.
I’ve been blessed with working for a vineyard management company for the past four harvest seasons. Farming over 1600 acres of grapevines is no easy task. There are many intricacies involved with caring for so many plants, which are expected to produce varieties that make for the best wines in the state (or so I’m told since I don’t actually drink wine, but I have complete faith the testimonies are true). Weather, disease, irrigation, fertilization, and cultivation must be tracked and watched carefully, with changes happening on a daily basis.
Once out of winter dormancy the cycle begins with tiny little buds that form in late February and early March, sprouting in their innocence, looking forward to growing up big and strong. As the months turn warmer, green leaves follow, and then soon after the buds form teeny-weeny little clusters, which will some day don the glory of being called Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah to name a few. The names themselves excite me–so European, so sophisticated; nothing like me-at least I say that if only outside appearances are considered.
How many clusters do you think we have?
As the clusters grow and their colors deepen the vineyard is a beautiful blend of greens, reds, and purples. Summer arrives, and the buzz around the office sets in….harvest is on its way! By mid-August sugar levels are monitored and cluster weights measured, paperwork shuffles, spreadsheets get charted…each person has his and her special duties to prepare for what is the most exciting part of the year in the wine grape industry! We all pace ourselves for hectic hours and high demands as the fruit must be picked at the precise time for each buyer, and each winery has its own requirements for delivery.
Sometimes the harvesting takes place at night-can you imagine? Bright spotlights lighting up the vineyard rows as busy fingers cautiously but quickly snip, snip, snip one cluster at a time, making sure the fruit drops into the bins and gets pushed along by foot. Huge gondolas fill to the top and are trucked out in the wee hours before most of us smell the aroma of percolating coffee. The crews who do this work are amazing and operate like well-oiled machines together. Families and friends, people from past generations, who come year after year to get that prized piece-rate and take pride in the work they’ve known for decades.
Ready to go! *Photo by Molly Dow.
I marvel at this business…let me re-phrase: I marvel at this magnificence.
Last week we office girls got to harvest our own two rows of grapevines, Syrah variety, which we groom all year long under the guidance of our foreman. We laughed and talked, the bustle of it so incredibly special. These are our grapes. Our little piece of the action. If we are lucky, the winemaker will let us press the grapes, too. No, not with our bare feet, although how I wouldn’t love to put on a long, cotton skirt, tie up my hair in a bandana, and go squish, squish, squish while the ranchmen play their guitars and sing-like A Walk in the Clouds-pure amore!
There is nothing like getting your hands dirty, oh, and getting paid to do so!
Afterwards, I couldn’t help but think of the harvest in terms of our lives. The cycle…the beginnings and the endings…the excitement and the calm when it’s over…Each year we never know what we are going to get in terms of weather, climate conditions, and therefore the crop…sound a little familiar? We never know what to expect…but nonetheless…we keep doing our best; we keep trudging this life of happy destiny, and like the harvest, I marvel at the magnificence.
Until next year…I’ll miss you little bin!
Pure magnificence. *Photo by Chad Taber.
Dearest Readers, I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the harvest season. Remember: Life is short, so be happy every moment you can, and as always, give a chuckle.
*All photos taken by Kasey MacInnes unless otherwise noted.