First day of harvest: Originally posted on 8/14/15
Last night sleep evaded me. I was jittery; every 45 minutes or so my eyes would burst open to check the time. And every time, until it was 5:30 I had a small moment of panic believing that I had overslept my alarm. You see, today we started picking grapes at the Vista Serrano vineyard at 6:00 am on the dot.
I can’t lie. I was excited. We picked grapes for another winery’s rosé, but I was still giddy. Technically, I won’t call it harvest since the grapes never made it to Rabbit Ridge, (the other winery picked them up from the vineyard), but it was a thrill nonetheless. At 5:30 I scrambled out of bed to the sounds of Sarah denying that this was actually happening. It was safe to say that she wasn’t looking forward to the early morning, and neither was Sam. I went to get him out of the garage and he snorted at me before turning his tail and burying his head back into his bed. Most mornings at 6:15 he is yapping at the door to greet the day, but today he was pretty pissy. We scarfed down breakfast and hit the vineyard. Fortunately for Sarah and me, the vines we picked this morning were behind our garage.
Today was a small order; two crews handled 4 tons. When picking, there is a process we follow. A tractor pulls a trailer with 2 bins. The driver slowly prods forward as the grapes are picked and dumped into the bins. As the grapes move from vine to tractor, others pick out the leaves from the fruit. It is a perk of hand picking. I was told that we pride ourselves on having the cleanest fruit in Paso, and so every ton of grapes comes into our winery or into another’s facility fairly clean (by clean, we mean no leaves, and no sticks or other random items).
Once both bins are full, the tractor heads to a clearing with a weigh station. The gross weight of two bins are added together before subtracting the weight of the bins, (each bin is roughy 93 lbs). This initial measurement gives the driver an idea of how much is picked. If the bin is heavier than expected, he instructs to load less the next time and vis a versa. While the tractor is off weighing, the picking doesn’t cease. Instead, it becomes a tad hectic. The miniature bins that are dumped into the larger bins are all filled. With tractor present, 4-5 mini bins are rotated from full to dumped. Without a dumping place, more bins are passed around and filled in anticipation of the return. When the tractor returns with empty containers, it then becomes a rush to dump and pick out leaves so to catch back up on pace.
Once the order is met, the picking subsides and the final weight is recorded. Reports are filed and then shared in a group message and email for all who need this information, (watch out, Erich got tech savvy!) Then the grapes are loaded onto a semi-truck bed and carted off to the purchasing winery. On days that we pick for ourselves, they are instead hauled to the crush pad at our place.
As action packed as the morning was, the pick was completed in just under 2 hours. Machine picking would be even faster, but our method seems much more efficient. The only drawback is that our day doesn’t end with the pick. A quick nap and shower and we are off to the cellars. Some days we will do pumpovers and others we will open the tasting room. I’m still excited about harvest despite the understanding that my next three months will be slammed with work. It will be ok, I will have fun and Sarah will have a venti cafe misto from Starbucks.
- Originally published by Brice Garrett on August 14, 2015