By Teri Kerns
The vines were pruned, irrigated, trained, tucked, trimmed and tied. The grapes flowered, fruited, and ripened into bird candy, where upon bird netting was applied to the vines.
Those of us who are the farmers of the vineyards began regular patrols of the vines about mid-August. We pick a grape, and bite into it, examining the seeds to see if they have turned from green to brown.
We bite further into the seeds to see if they taste nutty, or if they have any bitterness. The skins of the grapes receive similar mouth examination. Are they still leathery and a bit tough, or dissolve readily on our mouth?
Then, when the little darlings taste right, we bring out the laboratory equipment, harvesting sample berries from the clusters throughout the field, and bring them into our labs for testing. Depending on the variety, the BRIX (measurement of sugar) should be about 25 on a refractometer or hydrometer, and the pH and acids are checked for the appropriate ranges for the style of wine we’d like to make.
When everything looks right, the emails and calls go out. It’s time to harvest!
Volunteers who will work for food and wine, please reply! This began last week in the Ramona Valley, and will carry on over the next several weeks. We harvested our own grapes the other day, and then we walked both Paccielo and Hatfield Creek vineyards yesterday.
The grapes look amazing—2012 is going to be a vintage we will talk about and enjoy for years to come. After running the numbers, and consulting with our growers, Bill and Kathy at Paccielo, and Elaine and Norm at Hatfield Creek, we have determined that Hatfield Creek will be ready this Saturday, Sept. 8, and we will pick Paccielo next Saturday, Sept. 15.
There is always post-harvest feasting. Hatfield Creek has quiche, muffins, juice, champagne and fruit ready. The volunteers who want to carry on the fun come along to our Ramona Ranch Winery to help with the processing.
Thirty people is not too many to bring in the grapes in a reasonably short period of time. Grapes are picked, brought to a weigh station, and transferred into fruit bins for the trip to our winery’s crush pad.
It’s always an early start, 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. so we can get the grapes in before it gets too hot for the fruit and the people. Our instructions to our volunteers always include these requests: Please bring clippers (remember to dip in bleach to avoid spreading disease), a hat, sun protection, and sturdy shoes.
Some folks like to wear gloves, and if you are allergic to bees, bring your meds, although we did not see any bees when we harvested at Hellanback Winery last weekend. Perfumes, colognes and aftershaves are discouraged because these can attract the unwanted attention of bees.
If you want to help someone in the valley harvest and/or to help make wine, refer to the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association website at www.ramonavalleyvineyards.org or www.ramonavalleywineregion.com and call someone. See you in the field!
Thanks to Elaine Lyttleton at Hatfield Creek for helping to write this update. Things are busy at Ramona Ranch Winery!