24 Hours of Harvest: A Snapshot
Presently, many Willamette Valley wineries are entering the apex of the 2018 crush. That translates roughly to a mind-numbing number of daily cellar tasks, from processing the last of the vintage’s fruit to barreling down young wines for the season.
We lack the space for every detail, but we can offer a useful—and illustrated—snapshot of the process at large. Welcome to a glimpse of a day in the life of a vintner during their busiest stretch of the year.
Picking (6:32 a.m.)
Most winemakers will tell you that great wines are grown in the vineyard. Picking is backbreaking work that requires a trained eye, speed and stamina. Some crews are instructed to watch out for certain flaws in the field, like rot or dried out clusters.
Sorting & Destemming (8:01 a.m.)
Work a harvest or two and your dreams will be sabotaged by sorting line visuals. This sometimes monotonous task ensures the best and healthiest clusters end up in the cellar.
Lab Work (9:50 a.m.)
There’s plenty of chemistry in the process of winemaking, and daily analysis of the must (young wines) paint a telling picture of the vintage. The basics often measured include pH, Brix, temperature and titratable acidity.
Punching Down (11:15 a.m.)
As much a stellar workout as an enological task, punching down involves breaking up the cap of a fermenting wine. The satisfying act releases intoxicating aromas while aiding extraction and wetting the skins and stems.
Tank Shoveling (noon)
Many outfits shovel out their own tanks when a wine is ready for the press. Ventilation is key, as the fermentation process creates a fair amount of carbon dioxide. This is a fantastic way to artfully stain your clothes.
Press Loads (12:40 p.m.)
Running the press can offer a rare window of downtime—the perfect opportunity to wolf down a bowl of soup and sandwich. Many modern presses run on automated cycles, using a large bladder to gently squeeze some of the most complex flavors out of the remaining solids. The resulting juice is vibrant and fulfilling to watch as it trickles into the press pan.
Forklift Driving (1:55 p.m.)
The Swiss Army knife of crush, the forklift does it all. It loads and unloads just about every piece of equipment, stacks and unstacks barrels and can even open a bottle.
Barreling (3:30 p.m.)
It can produce one of the best fragrances of harvest—putting a wine to barrel. The clever design of the L-shaped barreling wand allows clean transport while a headlamp or flashlight is used to gauge filling levels. A little wine will undoubtedly be spilled but that usually leads to beautifully stained barrels.
Barrel Repair (3:35 p.m.)
Some leak. Wax and special kits work great for repairs, but so too do good old-fashioned toothpicks.
Repeat (5:15 p.m.)
The clock may read quitting time but more fruit is arriving on the pad and another tank is ready to be pressed. Depending on the time of day, an upper or downer—or both—is advised.
Story and illustrations by Mark A. Stock | markastock.com
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon who spent a healthy stretch in the Dundee Hills making, selling and drinking wine. He’s written for Willamette Week, Oregon Wine Press, Travel Oregon, Sip Northwest, SevenFifty and more. Fly-fishing, Icelandic soccer and The Simpsons are among his favorite distractions.