We have some friends who are way more serious about making wine than we are. Recently, they have been starting with whole grapes rather than using juice concentrate from wine kits. This year, they purchased Syrah grapes from a small vineyard in Fallbrook.
Last weekend, the timing was right and we were
roped into providing free labor for given the opportunity to experience the grape harvest. We hauled ourselves out of bed at 5:00 (!) and groggily made the drive up I-15 to Fallbrook. The early hour and a bit of cloud cover provided a reasonably cool temperature. Given that the respite from the heat was temporary, we wasted no time getting to the grapes.
We were given a quick lesson on evaluating grape clusters (discard them if they are predominantly dried up and elongated rather than round) and then it was time to grab our buckets and shears and get to it.
What our group of amateur harvesters lacked in talent, we made up for with numbers. A little over an hour after we began, there wasn't a grape to be seen on the vines.
The total came to around 250 pounds of grapes. That was less than had been anticipated (the same vineyard produced four times that amount last year), but the hope is that the juice will be of a higher quality.
With harvesting finished, it was time to de-stem. Fortunately, modern equipment makes this a pretty painless process.
The grapes go in the top:
The stems shoot out the side:
And the grapes themselves funnel nicely out the front.
At this point the grapes were broken up a bit, but not fully crushed. To keep them cool for the trip back to San Diego, they were packed in big plastic buckets with dry ice (further crushing and yeast addition would happen back home).
The freshly pressed grape juice had a very nice sweet, clean taste. We're looking forward to tasting the wine in a few years.