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Harvest Time in the Vineyards
Visiting the wine country during harvest is a great way to see the action in the vineyards, activity in the winery and lots of tasting in the tasting rooms.
The harvest period in the vineyards is always fun and exciting. Starting as early as August, the wine country can be abuzz with activity. Early ripening varieties such as Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer are picked first. Then late ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, that are sometimes not picked  until October and even November come off the vines.
Most of the year wine sits quietly in barrels and vats interrupted occasionally by the wine maker dipping in to sample the brew. The wine may be moved to different containers or racked into oak barrels but there is not much action until bottling. It is at harvest time that there are hoses and pumps, trucks and gondolas, pumice and skins, smells and sweat that pervade the once quiet winery.
Depending on the speed of the harvest, winemakers are usually busy with dozens of details to attend to. If there are prolonged periods of hot weather, grapes can reach their desired sugar levels quickly and arrive at once and at all hours. At night look for bright lights in the vineyards as mechanical harvesters roam the vine rows. At the wineries there is always something to clean, clear, or prepare.
With all the harvest activity, wineries still make time to celebrate the bounty of their crop, often hosting special lunches for their staff and winery events for the public. The mood is usually up with frequent celebratory activities. Winemakers have been known to let their hair down and the adage of work hard, play hard is often practiced. (It is a little known fact that winemakers consume more beer during harvest than wine.)
September is California Wine Month and many wineries are offering special harvest activities. Here is a selection of activities that an be offered in wine country during harvest.
  • Grape stomps
  • fancy wine dinners
  • harvest BBQ’s
  • gourmet picnics
  • wine maker seminars
  • rock, blue-grass and jazz concerts
  • wine & cheese pairing
  • ice cream socials
  • golf tournaments
  • winery dances
  • eco-friendly vineyard tours
  • harbor cruises
  • meet the winemaker dinners
  • jousting demonstrations
  • chocolate & wine pairing
  • soup & wine pairing
  • butternut squash bisque & Viognier pairing
  • olives & wine tasting
  • beer Olympics & polka (!)
  • winery dog day
  • wine barrel art auction
  • and even a pancake breakfast
Contact your favorite wineries, see what they are up to during the harvest period from August to December.
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