A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to experience a bit of the grape harvest.
The gang at Westcott Vineyards invited me to come and help out for an afternoon, while they were picking their Pinot Noir grapes. Before I show you all the pics (and there are lots), I just need to say one thing.
If you are a wine lover, you really should experience this if you can. Nothing makes you appreciate what’s in your glass more, than seeing firsthand the hard work and dedication that goes into it. What happens at harvest is only one part of it all.
There’s so much to share with you, so let’s jump right into the story.
I arrived as the grape pickers were ready to bring the last of the Pinot Noir in. So I ventured into the vineyard with Victoria and Jessica to give them a hand.
They were waiting patiently for us
So I tried to pick up my pace a bit. Not very gracefully, I might add.
Jess volunteered to hop up on the truck
While Victoria explained to me what I needed to do.
I was to follow behind the truck, keeping up with their pace, and pick up the full baskets of grapes. They were to be placed on the truck, where Jess and her colleague would stack them.
Gotta say, all those squats at the gym came in handy.
We went up and down the rows, chatting as we worked. The hardworking grape pickers were still clipping away ahead of us.
When the last tub was loaded, I was invited to climb aboard.
We travelled down the last row, heading back to the winery.
The trick while balancing on the truck is to protect the grapes, ensuring they don’t slip or fall. They were very sturdily stacked, so no problems with that at all.
We got off the truck, and made our way to the sorting line. Victoria explained the process to me.
Not only does Westcott pick their grapes by hand, they also sort them by hand. I felt a little intimidated by this at first, how would I know if a bunch of grapes should be removed? But not to worry, there were several of us to do this important job. With Victoria on my left, and Grant Westcott on my right, I had the pros to help me out.
We were to remove any bits of leaf or twig or the odd bug that may have made it in to the basket.
The grapes were beautiful.
They smelled wonderful.
And tasted even better. This is where the wine magic begins, friends.
I was starting to get the hang of this, a little bit.
After the sorting, the grapes continued along the chute, going into the destemmer.
I think the destemmer is a pretty nifty gizmo. I’m not sure of the exact mechanics, but the grapes go in, and when they come out, the stems are removed.
Isn’t that neat? The stem of the grape bunch, completely removed.
While I continued my work, my trusty photographer got some shots of the Chardonnay pressing that was happening too.
Look at that scrumptious juice, oozing and dripping so beautifully.
All to be turned into the noble, magnificent, my-most-favourite-white-wine — Chardonnay.
Let’s take a look inside the machine.
It is so interesting to see how much of the juice is pressed. Not a drop of precious liquid left.
Next stop for the juice, the tank or barrel.
As for the Pinot we were working on, it’s destination was the barrel. The grapes will gradually press by their own weight.
A labour of love, proudly undertaken by the Westcott family.
It certainly gave me a whole new appreciation for the winemaking process, and I’ll be looking at my cherished wines with an additional level of respect now. Keep in mind that I only saw one afternoon at harvest. There were many more long days for it, and let’s not forget that harvest is just one part of winemaking and winery life.
There’s a lot of love, dedication, passion and hard work that goes into every single bottle.
Thanks so much to everyone at Westcott for a fantastic learning experience.