Although John and the boys have been doing some custom harvesting, for us, the first harvest of 2013 was last week -1 acre of Roussanne! After testing the pH and Brix, one winery decided it was time to harvest. And, we did on Thursday night!
For the best quality wine, the grapes need to be picked at their coolest temperatures. Sitting in the bins during the transportation from our vineyard to the winery, they can become quite hot. This heat allows undesirable yeast to begin acting which gives “off” flavors to the final wine. So, it is important to begin with as cool a temperature as possible. For us here in west Texas, the daytime temperatures are still in the high 90’s. The temperature drops off in the night causing the coolest time to be from 10 pm through the early morning hours. The time we begin harvest depends upon what the winery wants, how much is to be harvested and when the grape bins arrive. Many of our harvests begin between midnight and 4 am.
The 1 acre of Roussanne that was harvested Thursday night was scheduled to begin at midnight. But, the trailer with the bins to hold the grapes came early so we actually began around 10pm.
I love nighttime harvest! Everything is so peaceful and the stars are absolutely gorgeous. And, this year, I have a bird’s eye view from the top of the filter house/pavilion! I can see it all. Well, Actually, it was dark so there was not much to see except the lights of the harvester moving down the row – but it was great! Light were set up around the filter house/pavilion for weighing so as the harvester came to the center turn row, it was acually quite bright. And, I saw 2 shooting stars during this harvest!
You can see the Pellenc straddling the top of the grape row. Bow rods in the back of the Pellenc beat and shake the plant so the ripe grapes fall off and are carried to the on-board bins on either side of the driver’s cab in the front. The photo below shows the back of the Pellenc as it goes down the grape row.
If you look closely, you can see the children riding on top as the Pellenc harvests. Everyone wants a turn! Normally a turn consists of riding until the harvester need to empty its on-board bins. Since this harvest was only 1 acre and the crop load was much lighter (due to the late freeze), a turn was only 2 rows which are 1/3 mile long each. Still the children enjoyed it!
Once the acre was picked, the harvester dumped the grapes into the bins provided by the winery. While the Pellenc is an amazing machine, I should probably clarify that it does not empty itself of its own accord – the driver does it. For this harvest, the driver was our oldest son, Tyler but John and our 20 yr old son also drive.
The bins are then carried to the scales to be weighed. This year we are borrowing a mobile scale from another grape grower – you can see it here behind the van – the bin of grapes is being set down on it to be weighed.
Once weighed, the bins are loaded for transport and are off to the winery. These Roussanne grapes went to Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood, Texas.
We will be harvesting an acre of Roussanne today, Friday (9/6) and yet another on Monday (9/9) . If all goes well, next week on Family Friday, I will have a video for you of the Pellenc 4560 grape harvester in action!