Sampling Grapes in Preparation for Harvest


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During an early morning walk with Ryan Carr we gather grape samples to test in preparation for harvest.

RYAN CARR
The stuff that you’re seeing more of now is some of the newer stuff. These nets actually are typically designed to only last a few years and these are the first nets that we bought for this property and this property’s, what now—14 years old and they’re still around.It’s amazing. They’ve actually held up pretty well. Most people have replaced this type of netting with what you’re seeing now. People are calling it kind of the bikini netting that just nests the fruit zone and those are real nice. There’s no doubt. The problem with those is the birds can come over the top and get in. There’s no great solution for birds. We do the best we can to stop them from eating all our fruit.

Sampling’s kind of difficult, because as human beings, we naturally go for the ripest fruit. So you really kind of almost have to be blind as you’re sampling. So, a field like this, we’ve got a nice little block here, we’re going to take a sample basically from these two rows as we’re walking up and then we’ll cruise over and we’ll walk back down and take a little bit more just to get a nice field sample to get an idea as to where this field is as far as ripeness is concerned. What we’ll do is, we’ll grab a section and we’ll just pull a couple clusters, trying not to look too hard at the clusters—

WIL FERNANDEZ
Kind of randomizing?

RYAN CARR
Try and keep it as random as possible. Now, so I’ve grabbed a couple from this side and I’m going to go directly on the other side.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Oh, so you’re getting the two sides that the sun…
RYAN CARR
Correct, so I get some that are in the sun, some that are in the shade and that way we can get a nice sampling of what’s here. And as I’m walking through the field, I am looking at the grapes to make sure that I do get a good sample of what’s in the fields. So, if we’re seeing a lot of pink berries or if we’re seeing a lot of raisins, we’ll make sure that we grab some of that so that we get a good representation of what’s actually in the field.

WIL FERNANDEZ
The outliers….

RYAN CARR
Yeah, you want to pick blind when you sample, but you want to make sure that you are getting a good representation as to what’s in the field. I mean, we’re not really seeing much raisining yet. We’re still a few weeks off of actually picking here, but because we sell fruit to several different people, you know, much like a lot of the other vineyards in the area, we’ve got to keep on the numbers and make sure that all of our winemakers know where the vineyard is so that they can make plans for their upcoming harvest and when they’re going to want to pick.

And also you know, we get a pretty sizable sample. It’s not like we’re coming out here and testing just a couple berries. Yeah, you know, as we’re getting started, we will test individual berries, just to see how they’re progressing, but once we get closer to harvest where we’re weeks away or days away, this is really the only way to get a good idea as to what’s in the field.

Usually, I haven’t sampled this vineyard this early until this year. This is the earliest I’ve ever sampled this vineyard. Typically, we’re just starting to sample next week, doing big samples like this.

I’ll go through with the refractometer and test sugars that way. We crush it, we let it sit for about maybe three hours or so and try and mimic what’s actually going to happen in the winery so we get a better reading on sugar. This is more of a quick—you know, just to test in the fields. So, what I’ll do is I’ll just grab a whole cluster, crush it, get some juice on there, that way you’re getting a good sample of juice from the whole thing. It takes the reading: 19.3.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Taste like 19.3?

RYAN CARR
It tastes like 19.3.
I mean, the other thing I’ll do when we are getting really close, a day before I’ll pick something like that, you know. It’s on the board or maybe I haven’t made the decision, wasn’t quite sure in the winery about how it tastes. I’ll come out here and the same kind of thing, grab the whole cluster and just…

WIL FERNANDEZ
(laughs) yeah, must taste like it’s ready…

RYAN CARR
Now you get a good idea as to what the clusters taste like. Chew up some of the seeds. You really get some of the tannins in there that you’re actually going to end up with. So, it makes it fun too.