Harvest month is an exciting time for any winery or vineyard. It’s the time of year when the grapes are harvested from the vine and the winemaking process begins. After countless months of tending to the grapes, the literal fruit of our labor comes to fruition, and we can begin the next step in the process of bringing delicious wine to your glass.
In addition to the harvesting of the grapes itself, the Paso Robles wine region celebrates this time of year with many different events and activities spread throughout the various wineries and vineyards. You can find live music, tasting events, winemaker dinners and more throughout town as we celebrate another growing season coming to an end.
But even though the town likes to celebrate the hard work of all of those involved, there is more to wine harvest than just tasting events and live music, there is a lot of hard work to be done as well.
Let’s take a look at what happens during wine harvest in Paso Robles!
Wine Harvest in Paso Robles
There is a lot more that goes into harvesting the grapes we use to make wine than just picking them and moving them to the next step. Making sure the grapes are ready to be picked, making sure they are the proper ripeness, picking them properly, and more, are all things that are done during wine harvest in the fall in Paso Robles.
Ensuring the Grapes are Ready for Harvest
As veraison begins to occur in the grapes, the transformation from small, green berries, to the more mature, beautiful colors that we know them for, it means that it’s getting close to harvest time.
While veraison helps us understand when a grape is nearing its ripeness, it’s important to take samples to ensure that the grapes are ready for harvesting.
A grape is plucked from the vine and smashed, leaving the juices to be tested with a refractometer. This gives the winemaker the Brix measurement of the grapes which helps determine the sugar content of the grapes, which helps the winemaker understand the ripeness and can also help with determining the alcohol levels.
Once the winemaker has determined that the grapes meet their expectations, it is time to pick them off of the vine.
Picking the Grapes off the Vine
Picking the grapes is exactly what it sounds like, the grapes are removed from the vine and sorted for inspection, or triage. This process can be done by machine or by hand, but most traditional wine makers still prefer to hand harvest the grapes from the vine.
Picking the grapes by hand is going to be more time consuming and tedious, but it helps prevent damage to the grape and can result in a higher quality pick. Skilled pickers can quickly identify grapes that are ripe and ready for picking, while easily discarding damaged or unripe grapes. This can help speed up the picking process and make it very efficient.
Depending on the climate, wine picking is often done in the evening or night hours when the temperatures are cooler for the pickers. Winemakers and vineyards have to be careful though as waiting until the nights are too cool can cause frost to develop which can cause damage to the grapes. This is why it’s important to understand your growing climate and region to be able to determine the best time of year for your harvest.
Sorting The Grapes
After the grapes are picked off the vine they are then brought in for sorting. The sorting process, just like the picking process, can be done by hand or by machine. Unlike the picking process, the use of vibrating conveyor belts are used very frequently as opposed to hand sorting depending on the size of the operation.
As technology improves in regard to sorting, laser optical methods are also being implemented by some organizations. These lasers can scan the grapes to determine exactly which grapes are good to move on and which grapes should be discarded.
Regardless of whether you sort by hand or by machine, the end goal is the same, to weed out any unripe, damaged, or bad grapes from making it through to the next step in the production process.
Once the grapes have been properly sorted and all of the bad grapes have been discarded from the line they are ready to be crushed and juiced in preparation for the fermentation and actual winemaking process.
Crushing/Juicing the Grapes
In traditional winemaking methods, grapes were stomped with bare feet in order to extract the juices from them, but with the advancements in technology, there is no longer a need to use bare feet to crush the grapes.
Today, we use a machine that can crush the grapes and destem the grapes using a method that does not destroy the seed or the stems which contain a lot of tannins within the grape. Depending on the type of wine you’re making, tannins can be necessary in creating the dryness or feel of the wine when you take a sip. By leaving the more intact seeds and stems, while crushing the skin of the grape and exposing the juice, you can add more tannins into the mix as the grapes move through the fermentation process.
Once the grapes have been crushed and juiced, the grapes then begin the fermentation process of becoming the wine that will end up in your favorite bottle.
Harvest Season in Paso Robles
Harvest season in our home of Paso Robles is an amazing time for any winemaker as well as any visitor that loves wine. The town comes alive with everyone celebrating all the hard work of the year. Different wineries and vineyards host different events like live music, winemakers dinners, and more, while restaurants in town feature various wine specials and more.
Harvest time means that we finally get to see the culmination of an entire season of tending to our grapes and it also means that those incredibly delicious new vintage bottles of wine are going to be making their way to the people that allow us to do what we do, you!
If you ever have a chance to visit Paso Robles, or any wine region, during harvest month, we highly recommend taking advantage of everything that the regions have to offer. While we will tell you that any time is a good time to visit Paso Robles, there’s just something magical about harvest month that you have to experience for yourself.