We are into the thick of grape harvest at the moment, but first a little look at how we begin our harvest planning for our grapes. How do we get grapes from here…
to the winery that will make them into wonderful Texas wine?
First we use either a basic four-wheeler or our Kubota four-wheeler to gather grapes in a random sampling. Of course there is a system to achieve this random sampling. Ask my 12-year-old; she know better than I do. Good training from her father who loves statistics.
My children love working with this Kubota; they want me to buy about three more.
We have several 4-wheelers, but they are as safe or as fun to drive. At least that is what my children tell me.
These can be driven through the rows of the vineyard to allow the rider to pick individual berries. Several of our younger children, as well as a couple of our college age children, help with this task.
Grapes are picked and placed in labeled plastic bags.
Then we press the juice out of the samples of grapes.
An old-fashioned colander sieve is used to crush and press the juice from the grape skins and seeds.
As the grapes ripen to the appropriate amount for the type of wine that they will be made into, we shift to cluster sampling. Which simply means that whole clusters of grapes are gathered. Here you can see the bigger bags that are used for these larger samples. And some paperwork which shows the massive spreadsheets that we create with all the data.
Gathering the whole clusters takes more time to pick and to process, but these give us a better representative of the expected juice qualities that the harvested row or section of the vineyard will produce when harvested and processed.
Bigger bags are used for these larger samples.
Usually we use our larger small presses to process the juice from the cluster samples. Here is one. First the press is filled with grape clusters.
A shield is placed over the press to prevent too much stickiness getting all over our lab room. Water is used to inflate the tube on the inside and press the juice from the skins and the seeds.
Here you can see the tube deflating after a pressing.
The juice flows into the beaker.
At times we have two presses going, depending on how many samples we have to do for the day.
Then of course there is the clean up stage to get ready for the next sample.
All of the samples are laid out for testing with their appropriate labeling.
Some days there are quite a few samples to do.
Manuel, Daniel or Marissa usually do the testing. Brix (sugar level) and pH tests are done and reported to the wineries that the grapes or juice will go to at harvest, so that we can work together to choose the best day for harvest. Closer to harvest TA and other tests are done, so that Daniel and Manuel and the other winemakers using our produce can make the best Texas wine possible.
All of these numbers are fed into spreadsheets; and then our daughter, Marissa, emails these numbers to our winery friends in as timely a manner as possible. At first testing is done twice a week. Then as each variety gets closer to being ready, we test more frequently as needed.
Cliff, Marissa, Clint, Daniel, Blake, and Catherine have discussions among themselves and then with our winery friends to coordinating dates for harvest based on the grapes, harvesting schedules, processing schedules, and transportation schedules. You can imagine what a feat this can be especially when we are harvesting and often processing 50 – 100 tons a night.
Coming next will be some photos of this years actual harvest. We have harvested over a 100 tons in one evening along with processing this harvest. We have had several days of 50 or 60 tons. We will be breaking and going past the 1,000 tons for the year mark this year, God willing. We are currently finishing up the Viognier which has made a lovely showing this year. More varieties to come in the next week or two. This year has a great start on both volume and quality for Texas wine grapes.