November in the Vineyard: The ‘Late-Harvest’ Grapes

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

That’s a poem by Clyde Watson, the author of children’s books, composer of original music and writer of poetry. She’s obviously a keen observer of the seasons, noting the end of what we refer to as “the growing season” just three lines in.

Although a vast majority of the wine grapes were picked in August, September and October, a few “hang on” until November. They’re mostly found in higher and cooler elevations, those climes slowing the maturation process, and they’re mainly destined for sweet elixirs known as late-harvest wines.

Once all of the grapes are finally in, a dormant spray to rid the vineyard of any residual mildew spores may be applied.

Also, cover crops will continue to be planted, and hay may be spread on the hillsides to prevent erosion during the rainy season.

Some growers may also use post-harvest irrigation to help the vines store food for the winter and the next growing season — a more common practice in recent years in California, which has been dealing with an extended period of drought.

Then, as the poem notes, the earth will sink to rest until the arrival of spring. But as we’ll see in our first blog of December, there is still more work to do in the vineyard before the new year arrives.

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