Estate Vineyards Harvest
In 1995, I bought the property on which Lost Oak Winery is located. My main decision for buying this property was the excellent soil and drainage profile for growing wine grapes. I then planted our first Estate vineyard in 1998. That was 22 years ago, and I did not know which grape varieties would do best on this tract of land, so I planted 7 different varieties. Shiraz performed the best by far so when I planted our second Estate vineyard, we chose to plant mostly Shiraz and Blanc DuBois. Blanc DuBois also performed very well so we decided to pull up all of the other varieties and re-plant only Blanc DuBois and Shiraz.
The vineyards at Lost Oak normally have bud-break between late March to early April, and “bloom” in late April. Bloom is when the tiny white flowers drop, and the small fruit clusters appear. This is followed by verasion which normally occurs in late June to early July. Veraison is when the red grapes turn from green to red and the white varieties from green to yellow / white.
Right after veraison, we start measuring the sugar levels of the grapes. We continue measuring
until we are confident of the proposed harvest date. Normally we harvest our Blanc DuBois first
– around the last week of July. Our Shiraz is usually harvested around the second week of
August. The sugar levels are determined using a refractometer. It‘s like looking through a small
telescope where one gets a visual reading of the color change on a scale of 0 to 30. We refer to
this as degrees Brix. Although this is the most important factor in determining harvest date,
there are several other very important factors that also must be considered:
- a. Seed color (seeds need to be yellow brown to dark brown
- b. Seed texture (seeds need to be crunchy when you bite down on them)
- c. Shrivel (the grape skins need to be slightly shriveled)
These are all important signs of ripeness which, if adhered to, will give maximum flavor and
aroma when converted to wine. Therefore, if we pick too early or too late we “miss the target”.
We use volunteers to help us harvest our Estate vineyards because it is a manual process
requiring pruning shears, buckets, and teamwork. Normally, we have a substantial list of
customers, wine club members, and neighbors who want to help. We coordinate with them by
emails starting 2 weeks in advance of predicted harvest dates and then give final notice 48
hours before the actual harvest. The grapes tell us when they are ready, which means
harvest is never scheduled for convenience even if it is on a weekday when most people have
to work, or if there is a predicted chance of rain. Each year it is exciting to see the grapes
harvested and the next cycle of wine-making begin.