At about 4 a.m. on Thursday on a crisp, clear night, the harvesting crew showed up to begin Gantz Family Vineyards’ second harvest. Workers harvest at night because winemakers like working with cold fruit (it’s easier to chill for cold soak because it’s already cool) and because eliminating the heat and the bees makes conditions more comfortable for the workers. We got the full effect of the light standards -- which illuminate the vines -- the hooting and hollering, and the general fun of an early morning harvest.
Workers were done around 9:30 a.m. and filled about eight bins of fruit. It was less than we’d hoped for; we blame the bird infestation we got late in the season and a bad set in the Calera because of spring vigor. We’re already making plans for next year: we’re going to shoot tip those Calera plants to head off excessive growth and leave a permanent cover crop.
Our back block, known as “Celeste’s Block”, was harvested for the first time and gave us about half a bin. It’s young so we were surprised Kosta Browne wanted it. But it’s on 420A, a very low vigor stock that is great for Pinot Noir, and the set looked great. We have high hopes for the future of Celeste’s block!
Next year will be our third growing season, with our 3.94 acres of vines reaching a mature status. As the vines mature, so do we as growers. I now can point to parts of the vineyard that need more water or less water or need water sooner (hence, the double drip line we’re planning to install). I can see areas of the vineyard challenged by nearby trees. I know where the stupid raccoons, turkeys and birds will strike first.
Each and every one of our plants is capable of fully ripening the fruit it bears. All the fruit can ripen at the same time. With the vegetative growth constrained, the right amount of sunlight can hit the clusters and keep the green flavors in check. And the right amount of sunlight can hit the canes, allowing next year’s buds to become fertile.
That’s what my maturing vineyard demands of me; that I become a mature farmer that knows my land and understands the vineyard as a living thing.