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California Vintners Gear Up for 2019 Harvest

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California Vintners Gear Up for 2019 Harvest

Behind the Scenes with Winemakers and Vineyard Managers

SAN FRANCISCO — 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.
 

 

Chris Eberle
Winemaker, Eberle Winery, Paso Robles

At Eberle Winery, harvest preparations begin as early as February, when winemaker Chris Eberle places his annual barrel order for the coming year. Planning ahead helps him avoid last-minute surprises—such as strikes at the docks—and helps save money with certain discounts by ordering far in advance or accepting barrels early. “When you’re talking about a $100,000 order, a 3% discount adds up,” Eberle says.
 
A month or a few weeks out—Eberle schedules yearly maintenance on presses, destemmers and other essential equipment.
 
Around the same time, new harvest interns arrive for training, which usually involves reviewing important safety procedures and washing tanks. “There’s lots of cleaning—clean, clean, clean—and it just doesn’t stop,” Eberle says.
 
Walking the vineyards is essential in the weeks leading up to harvest, so Eberle will spend time among the rows each day, checking on fruit development. “We’ve got about 30 percent of our production in estate fruit, and the rest is contracted,” he says, “so I deal with 15 different growers and 50 different vineyards.”
 
Along with monitoring crop sizes, he 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.
 
While harvest normally begins between the end of August and mid-September, Eberle predicts this year’s crush will kick off closer to mid-September.
Harvest Experiences for Wine Lovers
 
Consumers can get a taste of the California harvest experience at several wineries. Alexander Valley VineyardsBenessere 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.

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