August is one of the most exciting — and important — months in the world of grape growing and winemaking.
It has been nearly a year since the previous harvest, and anticipation is high. Growers already know the approximate size of the crop, presuming there are no unexpected storms during the next few weeks. But winemakers are now spending more time in the vineyards than in the cellars, sampling the grapes for ripeness and complexity, as well as testing for sugar and acid levels.
As the grapes continue to ripen, the vines are hedged and any secondary crop is removed to promote ripening. Any leaves adjacent to grape clusters are pulled to allow increased exposure to sunlight and airflow.
Since picking may begin on a moment’s notice, every piece of harvest equipment for the weeks ahead must be readied. These include tractors, gondolas, picking knives, tubs, bins, pickups, crushers, presses and pumps.
Much of this equipment is used only once per year, but it plays a critical role in picking, transporting, sorting, crushing or fermenting the grapes.
All of it must be ready because, ultimately, the grapes will dictate when they will be needed.