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Harvest is Here!

by Scott Shirley

Leaves are dropping, temperatures are slowly beginning to decline, and semi trucks with micro bins are on the road; all tell-tale signs that harvest is here. Harvest is not only the most exciting time of the year for us here at JUSTIN, it’s also the busiest. It is so easy to get swept up in the romance of the wine industry that we forget what goes on behind the scenes. Our winemakers and cellar masters must prepare well in advance in order to make sure they are ready for the special, yet challenging work ahead.

Selecting the most elite candidates for our internship program is one of the first requisite tasks in preparing for the harvest season. Each year we receive several hundred applications from around the world for a harvest internship position. It takes up to six months to finally pick our team members. Our cellar masters select interns based off of experience, drive, and willingness to learn. A harvest intern has a tough job to do; it requires those that are willing to do anything to get the job done, until their departure in December. We have selected the best 15 interns we could find for the 2012 vintage here at JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery.

Aside from finding our interns, sanitation and organization are crucial tasks leading up to harvest. Sanitation is extremely important when preparing for incoming fruit. Organization is critical when preparing for harvest, as it is essential for us to know where everything is at all times at the winery. Ultimately, if we didn’t take our time to sanitize our equipment, we will not be able to create the wines we do each vintage If we are not organized in the cellar, production will not be as efficient, which is vital for success during such a busy crush season. The white varietals tend to be harvested before the reds because we like to pick the whites at a higher level of acidity. We are not trying to achieve the highest sugar level possible; instead, we are looking at the acidity and the mouth feel of the fruit in order to determine the picking dates. As the sugar increases in the berries, the acidity decreases; therefore, we tend to pick the white varietals earlier. The first fruit to arrive this harvest has been the Sauvignon Blanc as well as the estate Orange Muscat. We have received Preston and Buena Vista Sauvignon Blanc so far, and they are looking fantastic.

Our goal is to produce the highest quality wine for our consumers, and in addition to other factors, hand harvesting ensures that we are receiving the best quality fruit possible. We take our time getting the fruit to tank as individual whole berries, which we could not achieve if we were to harvest mechanically. It is not an easy task in the vineyard to pick all the fruit by hand, but the end result is the best wine we can create for our fans.

The 2012 harvest has begun earlier than years past, but there is a lull right now. We are expecting a big rush of fruit to arrive at our door in the next few weeks, so we should see the end of harvest earlier this year than the past few. We are predicting that we will have all our fruit in house by mid-November. If that is the case, we will all be toasting a great 2012 harvest at Thanksgiving dinner.