Last week was a flurry of activity around here - grape harvest 2016 had finally arrived! If you remember, we had lost our whole Roussanne grapes to bunch rot. After that, I felt like I was holding my breath until the Aglianico and Montepulciano were out of the vineyard. Each grape harvest 2016 morning began at the crack of dawn. The sky was gorgeous as we stood at the barn and watched the sunrise over the vineyard. From the filter house, it was an impressive sight to see two reefers (refrigerated 18 wheelers) at the barn waiting to be filled. What you couldn't see from the filter house was the bins, the blue tele-handler (a fork lift on steroids) and tractor pulling a new toy we tried, a dump cart. I'll explain more about it in the next picture. In an effort to continually improve our harvest and make it safer, faster and more efficient, we try new things. You might remember our harvest truck that we have used previously. The grape bins were loaded on the back bed of the truck and the harvester dumped right into the bins provided by the wineries. We still have it, but this year we used a dump cart. The tractor pulled the dump cart around to each end of the vineyard for the harvester to dump the harvested grapes into. Each onboard bin of the Pellenc grape harvester can hold 1 1/2 tons of grapes for a total of 3 tons. The dump cart can hold 4 tons so it works out great! After each filling, the dump cart is taken back to the barn where the grape bins are lined up in a row. The dump cart is slowly tipped so it dumps the grapes into the bins. At the same time, the tractor driver pulls forward as each bin is filled to fill the next empty one. It worked great and we had very little spillage! And, it is much safer than using the grape harvest truck - no one is climbing up and down and no bins have the potential to be pushed off the other side of the truck. Over the course of grape harvest days, we harvested a total of 51 tons of Aglianico grapes and 44 tons of Motepulciano grapes! It was a lot of grapes. So, the vines that used to look like the picture below with the blackish blue grapes hanging below the lush green canopy... Now, look like this: Up and down the rows the Pellenc grape harvester went with one person on each side to pick out any leaves or sticks that were seen. Once the bins were filled, they were put into the reefers by the tele-handler. After several full days, we were finished and the grapes were gone - grape harvest 2016 was over - almost. We still had the end plants on each row to glean for our own wine making! More about that next week! We did have a surprise visitor for grape harvest this year - a praying mantis. He very patiently allowed several people to hold him. In case you are wondering, he was given a ride to the vineyard and set free - he didn't accompany the grapes to the winery!