Harvest. A day in the life?

Just found out through my distributor that we are getting the opportunity to work Harvest for a few days. Am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited! Something I’ve always wanted to do. Didn’t think I’d have the chance to this year. OMG!!! Am really thrilled!!

From what I hear from many, it is back-breaking work. OK! But what is the breakdown of the day in terms of what you’re doing?

Any feedback is welcomed. Thanks!

I understand that at some point in the day beer is consumed.

I want to do this. Didn’t get a chance to this year, maybe next.

I need to find a vineyard that is in need of a nearly useless novice who enjoys beer.

I hear that Fred Franzia is looking for help.

Veronica - are you going to be actually doing some harvesting of clusters in the vineyard or sorting fruit?

If you are doing just sorting of fruit at the sorting table, it is not back breaking work. You basically stand there and pull “bad” clusters and foreign objects off the table.

If you are actually harvesting grapes and doing punchdowns, pumpovers, bin cleaning, racking, etc., that can be tough and you’ll probably get wet and dirty and a little sore.

Hi Tony,

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe we will be actually harvesting grapes. Will be in Santa Barbara.

Here’s a snapshot of a typical mid-harvest day in the winery, from my experience at a few places:

Show up in the morning.
Punchdown all the fermenters.
Wipe down all the fermenters.
Take temp readings in each bin and pull samples for sensory evaluation.
Smell and taste through everything.
If grapes are coming in, get the sorting line ready/washed down.
Wash any fermenters that the new fruit will go into, if red grapes.
Do that and get the press ready if white grapes.
Process the fruit.
Wash trays or bins that the fruit came in on as you go.
Clean the sorting line and squeegee the floor.
If white grapes, hook up hoses and valves from the press pan to the pump and a bin to let the pressed juice settle.
Press as many loads as you have.
Clean the press, get rid of all the pomace, squeegee the floor, etc.
By now it might be the end of the day, meaning time for some beer and evening punchdowns. Repeat what you did first think in the morning - punch and wipe all bins, no need for temps or samples though.

If harvest isn’t in full swing, there aren’t so many bins to deal with. If fruit’s not coming in, you might prep barrels or clean fermenters for use soon enough.

Later in harvest you might be pressing every day, so it’s punch everything down, samples, taste, get the press ready, get barrels ready if you’re going straight to barrel with the new wine. If you settle red wine before barreling, the next day you’ll be filling barrels, pressing other lots and letting them settle, prepping barrels, cleaning everything at the end of the day, punching down whatever’s still fermenting, drinking beer, wondering how you could hurt in so many places, whether your hands will ever not be red/black with stains, how you’re going to get up and do it again the next day. Beer helps.

Thank you Vincent! [welldone.gif]

Advice–bring gloves. The grapes are cold, usually–if picked in the morning. Do not clip anything you cannot see clearly, you can easily snip your finger. Tannins stain your hands for days. It’s back breaking work if you are picking. Sorting is easy, but remember, the grapes (if harvested at night or the am) are COLD!!!

Vincent gives a good rundown on the actual crush.

If you’re going to pick in the vineyards, it’s indeed tiring work.

  • Be prepared to wake well before dawn; you need to make the drive up and get there early in the morning before sunrise to get a head start so the grapes remain cool as they get transported to the crush facility/winery.

  • Bring layers of clothes; it will be chilly in the early morning and then the heat will kick in. Bring a hat, sunscreen and gloves.

  • The tough part is moving through the rows picking the clusters of grapes from the vines with a shear/scissors. You’ll be stooping down and/or sitting on an upside down bucket moving quickly as possible and hoping you don’t pinch off a finger.

It’s magical. Being in the vineyard before dawn, watching the sun rise amidst the foggy vineyards and putting all that manual labor into picking over several hours results in a very satisfied feeling and you’ll be forever tied to those bins of grapes and the wine that is ultimately made from them.

Have fun!

Brett, appreciate the insight. Thanks!

Sarah, do you mean gardening gloves??

Thanks again to all.


I was talking to a grower the other night as we processed some white grapes. He said he loves the sounds of harvest in the vineyard. Pay attention to those little things, even as you move as quickly as possible. Try not to miss fruit hiding behind leaves. Careful getting clusters that are pinned by catch wires. Most growers I know won’t let people use blade cutters since you can easily lose a finger. So good clippers are key. I would bring my own, assuming you have a good pair.

Don’t wear anything you won’t mind thowing away. [beee.gif]

All I hear are the sounds of the tractors…and the migrant worker’s voices. And of course, the voices in my head.

I’m wondering what the preferred beer of the harvest is?

Almost anything without the words “light” or “lite” on them. [wink.gif]


At the risk of self-promotion for which I apologize, here was my report of a day in the 2006 Harvest in Burgundy for Bouchard (in the Montrachet, specifically):
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That should give you a good idea of what to expect. And as someone above pointed out, don’t wear anything you wouldn’t mind throwing out afterwards.
Cheers! [cheers.gif]

Cold beer is appropriate.

Around these parts, we’re partial to Rick Allen’s label out of McMinnville, Heater Allen. The Pils is about as perfect a harvest beer as I’ve ever had. Hoping a keg shows up this week.