California Vintners Gear Up for 2019 Harvest

Long hours. Seven-day work weeks. Grape-stained clothing, boots and skin. These are just a few of the challenges that await California vintners in the coming weeks and months. But before the bustle of crush begins, winemaking and vineyard teams are making careful preparations to ensure that the harvest process runs as smoothly as possible.

Wine Institute asked four California winemakers and vineyard managers to share how they’re getting ready for harvest and to deal with whatever Mother Nature decides to send their way.

Checking progress of the winegrapes are vineyard manager Mark Houser (left) and winemaker Kevin Hall at Alexander Valley Vineyards in Sonoma County, California.

Linda McWilliams, Owner/Winemaker
San Pasqual Winery, San Diego County
Lining up harvest help is essential in San Diego County, where the wine industry is smaller, and labor can be hard to come by, explains McWilliams. “We recruit family and tasting room staff to help. Everybody gets out there to help pick.” Read more.

Mark Houser, Vineyard Manager
Alexander Valley Vineyards, Sonoma County
At Alexander Valley Vineyards, the vineyard team estimates the size of the crop to help determine the amount of tank and barrel space needed for the harvested fruit, says Houser. Along with historical data, the calculation is based on the average number of clusters per vine, average weight per cluster, number of vines per acre and the total number of acres. Read more.

Cameron Parry, Director of Winegrowing
Groth Vineyards & Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley
A month from the start of harvest, the Groth team spends lots of time walking the vineyard rows and tasting in order to determine the optimal picking dates. “Closer to harvest, we’ll start taking bigger fruit samples for analysis of sugar, pH and acidity levels,” Parry says. Read more.

Chris Eberle, Winemaker
Eberle Winery, Paso Robles
“We’ve got about 30 percent of our production in estate fruit, and the rest is contracted,” Eberle says, “so I deal with 15 different growers and 50 different vineyards.”  Along with monitoring crop sizes, Eberle checks that the vines are in balance and decides whether or not to adjust the canopy or drop fruit. Two weeks from the estimated harvest date, he’ll start sampling white grapes and early-ripening reds such as Zinfandel and Grenache to check progress. Read more.

Harvest Experiences for Wine Lovers
Consumers can get a taste of the California harvest experience at several wineries. Alexander Valley Vineyards, Benessere Vineyards and Grgich Hills Estate offer grape-stomping events, while Schramsberg/Davies Vineyards and Trefethen Family Vineyards host immersive harvest boot camps that allow wine lovers to get hands-on in the vineyard and winery.

About Wine Institute
Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group for California wineries, which produce 80 percent of U.S. wine and account for more than 95 percent of U.S. wine exports. As the nation’s number one state for wine and food tourism and home to 139 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), more than 24 million visitors experience California wine regions each year.

SOURCE Wine Institute

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