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Getting Ready for Harvest

by Scott Shirley

This season seems to have flown by as we are already talking about harvest in July. There are other wineries in California picking grapes as early as last week for sparkling wines and early harvest varieties. At JUSTIN, we are getting closer and closer. We have several blocks wrapping up veraison this week. Veraison is when the grapes make the final conversion from a hardy green grape into either a red grape for red wines or yellow grape for white wines. As some of our early samples have indicated, we could easily start harvest in mid-August this season. Compare this to last season; we’re about 2-3 weeks ahead. Compare this season to 2011, a late harvest season; we’ll be almost 6 weeks ahead.

With that said, we are finishing up the final touches in the vineyards before harvest. We have quite a bit to accomplish in the next few weeks.


Birds have a great sense of when the sugar starts to accumulate in the berries. We have carefully selected the most susceptible areas of the vineyards to protect with bird netting. The balance of the vineyard will see a combination of reflective tape and loud horns to keep the bird away from our sweet berries. We’ll start putting up the netting and reflective tape in the next week or so.


This year, we’ve also seen an increase in coyote damage in our Orange Muscat fruit on the Estate Vineyard. We’re still trying to determine how to combat this new threat as they have not bothered our vineyards in the past.


The other preparation is getting the harvest bins, trailers, and equipment prepared for the coming harvest. Our trailers need the wheels reattached and joints lubricated. We clean all of our harvest picking bins and macro bins prior to the start of each harvest. So the scrub brushes will come out and cleaning will commence in the next week or so. Finally, we need to move our forklifts, tractors, and fifth-wheel trailers onto the appropriate ranches, check and lubricate all their joints, and perform our final safety checks. The straps that hold the macro-bins on the trailers are checked for integrity, the boards on the trailers are checked for security and the forklift’s arms are checked for cracks and levelness.

This has been an exciting season and we look forward to the next phase, harvest. Ironically, we are also in the planning stages for post-harvest by selecting winter cover crops and strategizing on how to winterize the ranches for the pending El Niño rains.