Even though we’ve now lived in this vineyard for over six years, I still get excited when the grapes are being picked right outside our door. It was especially thrilling because we were harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time from the Carpenter Ranch vineyard for our 2010 Jana Cathedral.
As I was photographing the moment, the whirring of the mechanical harvester interrupted the early morning calm. The noise was coming from the adjacent vineyard that was leased by a large Napa Valley winery owned by a international conglomerate.
The men whispered quietly as they worked, seemingly aware of this technological marvel threatening their livelihood next door. Was it the sound of the future – of jobs lost to yet another industrial device? With a couple of my friends, I scrambled through the rows of vines just in time to see it engulf a row of grapes and extract the little berries from the cluster. We were lucky to meet the harvesting supervisor who explained to us the nuances of this machine.
The machine’s computerized picking mechanism is sensitive enough to shake the clusters at the just right vibrations so that the ripe berries fall off and raisins are left on the stems. We went down the rows after it had harvested them and were amazed at how clean the stems were. The supervisor explained that it’s a very clean harvest with few stems and leaves.
Because we pride ourselves on our “handcrafted wines”, I wondered what Scott thought of this process. He’s a traditionalist so he prefers the pickers. Although he said they are now machine harvesting in the Rhineland Pfalz in Germany where Scott learned his winemaking skills. I wonder how many other parts of the world have adopted this amazing machine.