Monday began our week long Roussanne grape harvest! At 3:00 am we awakened, had coffee and prepared for the trucker's arrival. The majority of preparation was done the night before so there were only last minute details to attend to, such as, plugging in extension cords for the lights and scales.
If you remember, our new harvester, a Pellenc 4560, arrived last week. We began custom harvesting for other vineyards in the area on Saturday morning around 2:00 am. However, this was the first harvest using our own machine on our own grapes! Needless to say, spirits were high and excitement was in the air.
You might wonder why we harvest grapes in the middle of the night? We harvest when the temperatures of the grapes is the coolest. As the grapes sit in the bins while being transported to the wineries, they begin to heat up. This temperature rise facilitates the fermentation and multiplication of wild yeast - this is undesirable from a winemakers point of view! Since our grapes go to wineries in East Texas, even on refrigerated trucks (aka reefers) they will warm up to some degree.
Once the trucker arrived, the empty grape bins are unloaded and put on a trailer to be pulled to the vineyard. Some of John's siblings are visiting and very willing to help with the work.
Night harvesting is my favorite - the sky is so beautiful, the air so still and peaceful and the smell of grapes permeates the air. The view from the harvester shows the vineyard lit up by the harvester lights and the lights of the nearby town twinkling on the horizon - it is quite impressive!
The harvester has 2 large, on-board, dumping bins, which together can hold 3 tons of grapes. Once these bins are full or nearly full, they are dumped into the bins furnished by the winery.
The loaded winery bins are then hauled out of the vineyard to be weighed. Since we now live in our house at the vineyard, we set the scales up right out the back door. It was very convenient to the coffee machine too!
Handling one bin at a time, each is loaded using a tractor with forks on the front, onto a digital scale and weighed.
Once weighing is complete, the bin is lifted from the scale and loaded into the reefer.
We harvested 2 acres of the 7.3 acres of Roussanne. The older block yielding 9 tons per acre and the younger 5.5 tons per acre! We were very pleased at the performance of the Pellenc 4560. The fruit was quite clean and hopefully, the wineries will be impressed with the quality of the fruit.
We will complete the Roussanne grape harvest this week - then on to Montepulciano and Aglianico!