From Veraison to Harvest

Vidal grapes and Cabernet Franc grapes growing side by side.

Right now is an exciting time at the vineyard, and you don’t have to look far to see the changes.  No, it’s not Wyatt that I am talking about. It’s pretty exciting to watch him grow, too, but you will have to wait until Friday for me to tell you more about that!  For the last blog, I wrote about veraison, which is the color change that indicates grapes are beginning to ripen. This week I am going to talk to you about the timeline as we move from veraison to harvest season.

During the weeks following veraison, you will notice the vines getting “woodier”.  This is another indicator that they are putting all of their energy into making the grapes sweeter instead of continuing to spread. The grapes are growing plumper by the minute (this is called engustment), but this plumpness slows down airflow in the some of the clusters.  As a result, our vineyard workers Gene and Jacob have to watch closely to make sure the grapes aren’t being attacked by any fungus or bug infestations.  

During this same time, they are taking samples from all different areas in each varietal lot to determine if the grapes are ready to harvest.  Because grapes ripen at different rates even on the same vine, they have to be sure to collect samples from all different rows, from different sides of the vines, and from different heights of the vine.  These samples are sent to Michael Shaps, our winemaker, so he can run tests to determine the levels of sugars (measured in brix), tannins, acids, and flavor compounds. He is waiting on the perfect combination of all of those factors to tell us that the grapes are ready to harvest. You can watch this informative video from Jordan Winery to see the entire process.

Meanwhile, we are also watching the weather very closely so we can choose to pick early if there are any threatening meteorological events that we need to schedule around.  Often, vineyards will choose to pick before a storm hits to keep their grapes from becoming damaged. We had to make this decision last year when Hurricane Florence was scheduled to dump several inches on us.  

Harvest season is often considered to be the most exciting time at a vineyard.  It is a time when the vineyard workers are able to see the fruits of their labors, when vintners are able to start their visions for next year’s wines, and when vineyard visitors are given a brief glimpse of all the work that goes on behind the scenes to produce their delicious favorites.