California Grape Harvest – Getting the wine grapes from the vine to your bottle

Inspecting wine grapes for harvest

Central California Grape Harvest

Central California wine grapes being harvested

This photo shows a sight that is very common around the region beginning late summer into autumn – the California grape harvest.

Like most things agricultural, the wine grapes are “ready when they’re ready” and there is no delaying the process. That “readiness” is usually determined by the measurement of sugar in the grapes.

If you are only familiar with table grapes you might be surprised at the small size of the “berries” on the clusters of wine grapes shown here. They tend to be much smaller and more tightly packed than table grapes.

This grower uses the older and more traditional hand method of harvesting. It is referred to as “cutting grapes” rather than “picking” and you can see the clippers in the harvester’s left hand.

In the last 10 years or so mechanized harvesting has begun to be used in the Central California grape harvest. This involves a tall wheeled machine that straddles the row of grapes and uses mechanical “fingers” which dislodge the grapes from the vines. The grapes are then moved by a conveyor and then deposited into a large container called a gondola which is pulled by a tractor in a neighboring row.

Some winemakers specify not only the sugar content of the grapes but also the temperature at which they are picked with cooler being better. So much of the harvesting goes on at night.

You will see, as you drive the roads here, many trucks loaded with bins full of grapes on the way to the crushing facility.

It’s a very busy time of the year for the grape growers and others involved in the wine industry.

Winemaking is a peculiar enterprise and not unlike life in general – periods of intense activity followed by waiting, and waiting.

This harvest season is the intense activity and an interesting part of the process of making wine.

Mechanized grape harvester

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