Many hands make light work in Riverbench Vineyard in Santa Maria, California, about an hour north of Santa Barbara. Throughout the year, the vineyard crew tirelessly farms 240 acres of vines. From pruning to harvesting, these workers put in long hours keeping the vineyard productive and healthy.
Seeing is believing, and every photographer has a unique perspective. Each time one of our contributing photographers goes into the field, another one-of-a-kind part of the grape growing season is captured by the camera. Here, you’ll find full visual documentation from spring to fall of all things vineyard, including a wide range of cover crops, beneficials, and all the other elements that contribute to growing the highest quality grapes in Santa Barbara County.
Harvest Work Is More Than Just Picking
When most people think of the work that goes into harvesting wine grapes, picking is the first thing to come to mind. But there are other jobs for the vineyard crew during harvest.
UP CLOSE: Grape Vine Tendrils
In the plant world, a tendril is a thin stem or leaf with a thread-like shape that climbing plants, such as the grape vine, use for support and attachment. Ancient vines twined tendrils around trees, whereas today they grow around intricate trellis systems in the vineyard. These tendrils have the ability to perform photosynthesis. Continue reading
UP CLOSE: Fruit Set
The pollination of little grapevine flowers almost immediately leads to a phase called “set,” where the fruit actually begins to appear on the cluster in the form of very small grape seeds, and berries to protect them. Continue reading
UP CLOSE: Bloom
Shortly after the grape cluster appears and grows a bit larger, which takes anywhere from three to eight weeks, tiny fragrant flowers appear all over it. This very important phase in viticulture is called “bloom.” Continue reading
INSIDE THE VINE : Wine Grape Cluster
The immature Pinot Noir cluster emerges from the bud. “Pinot” refers to the pine cone shaped cluster seen here.
UP CLOSE: Bud Break – The Bud Emerges
This photograph depicts the bud at the very beginning of bud break, when the first leaves enclosing the tiny bud have just begun to unfurl. The fuzzy leaves help to protect the fragile immature cluster from frost and disease.
INSIDE THE VINE: Emerging Buds
After the growing season has ended and the vines are bare and dormant, they need to be carefully pruned in order to sustain the life of the vine and ensure the production of another harvest.
INSIDE THE VINE: Spurs and Canes
While enjoying your scenic drive through wine country at the peak of grape growing season, you may only notice the full leaves and the beautiful fruit on the vines. But when the vines go dormant, their basic anatomy is revealed to the interested onlooker.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Roses
Author and poet, Gertrude Stein, may have written one of the most memorable phrases when she penned, “Rose is a rose is a rose,” but this lovely blooming beauty is far more valuable when its function in the vineyard is taken into consideration.
COVER CROP PLANTS: Barley
Annual grasses like barley are commonly used for reducing soil erosion and increasing frost protection. Perfect for cool and dry growing areas, barley is often found throughout Santa Barbara County.