Growing winegrapes is a year-round endeavor, but there’s a window, about a month and a half in length, within which the entire year’s toil can be trumped.
It’s the make-or-break period in the world of wine known as harvest season, now in progress or about to begin in dozens of microclimates up and down the West Coast. One ill-timed thunderstorm or other outburst from Mother Nature can wipe out a crop or, if known about in advance, motivate picking before the grapes have attained the desired ripeness.
This is the time of year when growers and harvest crews must be on their toes, ready to descend upon a vineyard at a moment’s notice, day or night. Sleep becomes a coveted luxury.
Little wonder, then, that some winery and vineyard owners take time at the beginning of each harvest season to seek a little help from above. In fact, it has become a tradition at Fetzer Vineyards in California’s Mendocino County, as detailed in this report from the Ukiah Daily Journal.
Rev. Fergal McGuinness presided over the Fetzer blessing of the grapes, offering his plea in both English and Spanish.
“Lord, we thank you for the people that cared for these vines so that we could have this harvest,” he said. “May we always care for the earth and for our brothers and sisters who pick the fruit.”
The workers then were treated to a barbecue before the harvest began in earnest.
A few days earlier, in the St. Helena appellation of Napa Valley, a similar ceremony took place at Joseph Phelps Vineyards to kick off that estate’s 40th harvest.
As the Sacramento Bee reported, when the first batch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes arrived at winery’s original crush pad, it was met by Bill Phelps, whose father oversaw the first crush in 1973. Also on hand was winemaker Damian Parker, as he has been for 31 of the 40 Phelps harvests.
“Every harvest is different,” Parker said, “yet when a milestone year comes up like this one, it reconfirms in my mind the commitment by the Phelps family to making great wine.
“Every year brings something new and exciting, whether it’s a new challenge in the vineyard, the weather not cooperating, or a new piece of equipment to master. It all becomes part of the history, the legacy we have been entrusted to carry on.”
You can read more about the history of Joseph Phelps Vineyards here.