That sinking feeling ...

When it finally becomes clear that your picking crew is just not going to show. This wasn’t the most crucial pick in the world – just a couple tons for sparkling – but it’s still a huge drag. The first pick of every harvest is anxiety ridden for just this reason. There’s always some question whether they will actually turn up and always a huge relief when I finally spot a line of headlights coming down the dirt road toward the vineyard. No such luck tonight.

This kind of thing is happening more and more.

Bummer to hear, Stew. I’m worried that there may be a lot of this happening over the next week or so with everyone trying to pick right now due to the heat.

Stewart: what ended up happening? I felt so bad…I did not know what to say.

I have not had that happen, but there is always a first. One time, a long time ago, I had a crew who was put together by a freelancer, we shall call him. The crew that showed up demanded wages way over what was being paid. They refused to pick until I guaranteed them that wage. I was not happy, but it got picked. That crew was not invited back. Plus they did a dirty pick.

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. On a normal pick, I would have had people take down the bird netting and pull leaves in the afternoon/evening ahead of the picking crew. Then you’re hanging naked when the crew flakes. This was just a small harvest of kicker canes that stuck up above the banded bird netting. I was just trying to snatch a couple tons of that for sparkling before the birds are it. With the delay and the heat, the sparkling producer got leery and backed out (no blame there) and so I just picked it with my guys the next night for rose. I wasn’t exactly dying to get on the rose bandwagon, but it’s better than feeding these “bonus grapes” to the birds.

Are there big commercial outfits using H2b or h2a visa workers? They are doing it for other crops in Cali so this seems like a no brainier but just curious. I’m in the environmental biz and we use both for our tree planting and nursery work.

I know of a winery that was waiting for fruit to come in yesterday from a long-standing relatinship with a grower. Fruit did not show up, and the winery found out that the reason was that no crew showed up. Let’s hope it was a misunderstanding.

I think mechanized picking, as is very common in Australia, is the future. Labor is becoming too expensive and too scarce.